Foods and Drinks That Support a Good Night's Sleep

Before Sleep Food and Drinks
A good diet and proper sleep are fundamental to a healthy state of being. To maintain good health, diet and rest must become aligned. The consequence of lack of sleep extends far beyond sleeping disorders, fatigue, insomnia, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Poor sleep can also promote inflammation, and increase the risk of mood disorders or neurodegenerative disorders. Of course, there are natural health supplements—including melatonin—that can help you fall asleep faster or attain a more restful sleep, but what you eat can also have a large impact.

The Relationship Between Sleep and Food

Several studies prove that a lack of sleep leads to an increase in food consumption. We often underestimate the positive effects a good night's sleep has on our overall health and well-being. While we try to gain better control of our daily schedules, we tend to ignore another aspect responsible for contributing to quality sleep: diet. What we eat during the day and right before bed can significantly affect our night's rest. Our diet is not just fueling our energy but is a key to our body's repair and rejuvenation. The right foods can nourish our body. We'll take a closer scientific look at some foods that are allies (and look at which ones to avoid) in our mission to better health with sound sleep.

Foods for Promoting Better Sleep

Turkey: Whenever we think about turkey, Thanksgiving is probably the first thought—but turkey is a great option for those who eat meat due to its high tryptophan content. This amino acid helps promote serotonin production, and can induce a more restful sleep.

Chicken: Another poultry item that can give you a much-needed dose of the amino acid tryptophan. It functions as a precursor to serotonin, which helps to regulate mood and sleep.

Bananas: Have them as they are or blend them into a smoothie; bananas are a rich source of potassium and tryptophan—potassium is essential to sleep. Studies reaffirm that potassium boosts total sleep time and increased potassium intake is linked to improved sleep efficiency and duration (without fragmentation—or constantly tossing and turning).

Foods to Prepare for Sleep

Maintain a timely schedule to train the body for routine rest. Ideally, we would rise with the sun, and sleep as the sun sets—but that isn’t always realistic. Regular sleep, of 7-9 hours, is a good span of time to ensure proper rejuvenation, and you’ll want to make sure you’re disconnected from phones or laptops at least a couple of hours prior to this. As well, foods can help or hinder you when it comes to preparing for bedtime. Foods containing "melatonin" or precursors can help regulate our sleep-wake cycle and signal your body to wind down and get ready for bedtime.

Foods High in Melatonin

Cherries: Packed with nutrients and antioxidants, cherries are a great choice to help you sleep better. Tart cherries, specifically, are an excellent choice to signal your body to take your well-earned rest. Here's why: tart cherries contain melatonin to regulate our sleep-wake cycle, along with increasing the production of serotonin, a chemical to help your body make melatonin.

Grapes & Goji Berries: Our brain produces melatonin during the day at differing levels based in accordance with our environment—darkness vs. light environments. There is an increase in the evening while it reduces as dawn approaches. Scientists discovered that red grapes and goji berries contain melatonin, and can help people improve sleep quality naturally.

Foods Containing Magnesium

Magnesium is responsible for hundreds of biological and intracellular processes within your body—contributing to the production of protein and DNA, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and regulates muscles and nerves. Introducing magnesium-rich foods into your pre-sleep meal (whether this be dinner or a light snack) can help alleviate anxiety, relax the muscles, and allow for a more relaxed body. Some foods high in magnesium include:

Almonds: A healthy snack, almonds are high in healthy fats and low in saturated fat. On your next visit to the grocery store, add some almonds to your shopping cart as a healthy late-night snack option. An ounce of almonds contains 77 milligrams of magnesium. A handful of almonds can provide enough magnesium to support relaxation.

Spinach: Leafy vegetables like spinach are a good source of magnesium. Add spinach to your dinner (think: salad, pasta, or veggie bowl) as it helps to naturally relax your muscles and nerves.

Drinks for Better Sleep

Take caution to not take too much liquid before bedtime to avoid the urge to urinate midway through your sleep, causing a break in continuous rest. Sipping a warm beverage late evening can remind your body it's almost time to retire for the day. Here are a few drinks to consider for a prolonged and quality sleep:

Chamomile Tea: Herbal teas like chamomile promote a soothing, calming—almost sedative-like—effect on the body, and are also well-known for their sleep-inducing quality. Chamomile, specifically, has been used as a natural sleep-inducer for centuries.

Warm Milk: An age-old adage to consume warm milk before bed holds. Although studies don't show a ton of solid evidence of the effect of consumption on sleep, milk contains both tryptophan and calcium in high quantities, a great combination to get you a restful slumber.

Tart Cherry Juice: The juice from these tiny red cherries is useful for inducing a relaxing sleep and boosting your mood. Studies seem to suggest that tart cherry juice leads to a longer and more peaceful sleep.

Foods to Avoid

As you contemplate grabbing something from the fridge or cupboard right before bed, you should also stay vigilant of the foods that may negatively impact your sleep quality—these can give you heartburn, or promote inflammation prior to bedtime. Some foods to avoid include those high in saturated fat—like red meat and full-fat dairy products. You’ll also want to avoid caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol. You shouldn’t eat directly before bed either, as you’ll want to allow for proper digestion.

Achieving the “Perfect Diet”

Making changes to daily habits is a slow process. But a good night's rest is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Getting that deep sleep we crave every night will take small, but consistent changes in bedtime habits. You can include one or more of the above-suggested foods as part of a pre-bedtime snack to help promote a more restful sleep every night.