Many foods offer naturally occurring elements that calm your mind and allow your body to relax, resulting in a satisfying night’s sleep. According to The National Sleep Foundation, upwards of “40% of Americans report having symptoms of insomnia at some point within a given year.” That is almost half our population! Whether it be stress, anxiety, restlessness, or body aches, there are natural ways to boost your sleep cycle and feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Here are seven foods that encourage a restful slumber.
In one study, participants consumed eight ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and eight ounces of tart cherry juice before going to sleep for two weeks. After the two week trial, the group said they slept better. Why would cherry juice make someone sleep better? Cherries contain a natural hormone known as melatonin which is what your brain produces to help you fall asleep and maintain your circadian rhythm. Try snacking on a cup of cherries before bed if they tart cherry juice is too much.
There’s a reason the saying, “Turkey makes you tired,” came about, but it’s not the only protein that encourages a good night’s rest. Proteins like cheese, eggs, yogurt, fish, meat, elk, and turkey contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is a natural sedative. The way your body utilizes tryptophan is by turning it into niacin which helps create serotonin, a hormone that works with melatonin to regulate your sleep cycles. However, consuming tryptophan alone won’t help you get a good night’s sleep. You have to pair it with carbohydrates to help it reach your brain and not get shoved out of the way by all of the other amino acids.
Lemon Balm and Valerian
Lemon balm has been used for centuries as a sleep aid. Recently it has been found to be more effective when paired with an herb called valerian. This herb helps you fall asleep faster by increasing the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. The combination is the perfect recipe for relaxing your mind and body while providing a sedative effect.
Sipping on chamomile tea before bed has a tranquilizing effect on the brain. Studies show that when consumed, it increases the amino acid glycine which is responsible for relaxing the nerves and muscles working as a sedative.
Bananas are a fantastic superfood for overall wellness. They are loaded with potassium and magnesium, two minerals that promote muscle relaxation. Magnesium deficiencies have been linked to restless leg syndrome and muscle cramps, both of which can interfere with your sleep cycles. Aim to eat at least half of a banana a day!
Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which play a significant role in relaxing the body and generating melatonin. Stock your refrigerator with spinach, swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, and collard greens to reap all the benefits of these natural sleep aids.
There are many natural foods to help you get a good night’s rest. When having a sleepy snack, be sure to combine high-protein options with carbohydrates. When these two items are consumed together, insulin produces in response to the carbs allowing tryptophan to reach your brain. It’s the perfect pairing for catching some extra z’s and waking up well rested.