6 Foods for Better Sleep

Good sleep is vital for your health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least seven hours of shuteye each night. Sleeping well is an important component to good health. It can enhance memory, improve mood and regulate appetite. It can also restore your vital organs like your heart; while you sleep, your body works to repair muscle, organs and other cells. Studies have linked poor sleep to an increased risk of heart disease and weight gain.

Many habits improve the quality of our sleep including avoiding electronic devices such as smart phones and TVs an hour or so before bed, following a consistent sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom dark (I love blackout shades) and sleeping in a cool, comfortable temperature. Creating calming rituals like taking a hot bath also helps us to get ready for bed.

Did you know, however, that what you eat can negatively affect your sleep? For example, avoiding large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime is important.

In addition, certain foods contain natural substances that may help promote a good night’s sleep. While the research on sleep-inducing foods is inconclusive, here are six foods you can keep in your kitchen that are thought to help you doze off.

Though we don’t know the extent to how these foods may help you, they’re healthy. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying them to induce sleepiness.

Kiwis

This study from Taipei Medical University found that people who ate two kiwis an hour before bed fell asleep faster and slept longer and more efficiently.

The high antioxidant levels — kiwis are a good source of antioxidant vitamins C and E — as well as B vitamin folate content may explain kiwi’s sleep-promoting mechanism. A deficiency of folate has been linked to insomnia.

Tart cherries

The natural melatonin and phytonutrient content in tart cherries have been linked with their sleep-promoting benefits. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep-and-wake cycle and signals the body that it’s time to go to bed.

Tart cherries also contain anti-inflammatories, which may help improve sleep quality. In this study, people who drank ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of tart cherry juice for a week slept around 40 minutes longer each night than those who drank placebo.

In another study, people with insomnia who started drinking tart cherry juice got over an hour’s more sleep each night.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, which help to curb hunger levels, and magnesium, which helps your muscles relax.

Almonds and walnuts, specifically, contain melatonin. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid and a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can be converted to melatonin.

Fatty fish

Fish such as salmon and tuna are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. These nutrients may help regulate serotonin, a neurotransmitter made from the amino acid tryptophan, which helps to regulate sleep, mood and other functions.

Fatty fish are also high in protein, which has been shown to promote sleep. Interestingly, studies show that the Mediterranean diet, which tends to include more fish instead of steak, has been associated with improved sleep quality in older adults.

Herbal tea

The warmth of a hot beverage can soothe you and get you in the mood for sleep. The following herbal teas may help you to unwind at the end of the day: chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower and hops tea.

Passionflower tea contains several flavonoids, which may help promote sleeping time. In this study, drinking chamomile tea (my favorite!) has been associated with short-term sleep benefits and improved mood in postpartum women.

Warm milk

If you’ve ever read anything about sleep-inducing food, you’ve probably heard about this one. Scientifically, there may be some connection between the melatonin and tryptophan content of warm milk and improved sleep.

But perhaps more powerful is the psychological link between warm milk and bedtime as a child. The routine of drinking a glass of warm milk before bed may bring back childhood memories, which may help us to relax. Whatever the reason, drinking warm milk before bed may help.

If you’re at all like me and don’t like drinking warm milk on its own, try this concoction I discuss in my book “Finally Full, Finally Slim.” Moon milk, or warm milk spiced with natural flavorings like calming herbs, spices or fruit, not only tastes better than plain milk, but if you add a sleep-inducing aid, it may work double time. Try adding tart cherry juice to warm milk for a tastier alternative to warm milk.

6 foods and drinks that may help with sleep:

— Kiwis.

— Tart cherries.

— Nuts and seeds.

— Fatty fish.

— Herbal tea.

— Warm milk.

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6 Foods for Better Sleep originally appeared on usnews.com

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