Three Foods That Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep
There are plenty of anecdotal remedies that are said to encourage sleep, such as a glass of warm milk or a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. However, aside from the impracticality of eating a holiday meal each night, there’s no definitive science that points to any one specific food for good sleep. Instead, we’ll share three types of foods and why research indicates they may help you drift off to dreamland.
1. Tart Cherries and Other Foods Containing Melatonin May Encourage Sleep
Several foods — including tart cherries — contain significant amounts of melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain that helps us sleep. According to WebMD, while melatonin supplements are available, they can potentially interact with certain medications or cause drowsiness. Therefore, some people prefer to consume foods containing melatonin instead.
An overview of dietary sources of melatonin published in the journal Nutrients found that eggs and fish had the highest animal-based sources of melatonin, with nuts having the highest concentrations in plant-based foods. Other foods that contain melatonin include the aforementioned tart cherries and nuts — especially walnuts, pistachios, and almonds. Because fruit juices tend to be higher in sugar, consuming tart cherries is the healthier way to go.
2. Oatmeal and Other Complex Carbohydrates May Help You Sleep
Complex carbohydrates found in foods like oatmeal, rice, or whole-grain toast may help you sleep. The emphasis here is on “complex” carbs — skip the processed sweets or chips. Instead, try a small serving of oatmeal or a slice of whole-wheat toast about an hour before bedtime. According to Good Housekeeping, complex carbohydrates in oatmeal stimulate insulin production, which makes you sleepy. Complex carbs raise insulin at a steadier rate than sugary snacks, resulting in sleepiness.
One caveat to this tip: Overeating before bedtime can negatively impact sleep by putting your digestive system into overdrive, according to the Sleep Foundation. Think “light bedtime snack” rather than “hearty food coma meal.”
3. Fatty Fish Are a Food for Good Sleep
You’re probably already aware of the health benefits of fatty fish, a dietary protein source that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, subjects who consumed Atlantic salmon three times per week slept better overall than participants who didn’t. The study’s authors theorize that the vitamin D content in fatty fish may be the reason for this beneficial impact on sleep.
If a bedtime salmon snack sounds unappealing, don’t worry. The key is to regularly consume fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, or sardines as part of a daily meal about three times per week.
Moderation is Key When Trying Different Foods for Good Sleep
When trying any of these foods to get a good night’s sleep, keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better. Smaller portions are best for your overall digestion, restfulness, and maintaining a balanced diet. Start small and experiment to see what types and amounts of these sleep-friendly foods work best for you.