If you down a juicy burger and fries before you crawl into bed for the night, you can probably assume you’re not going to be getting the most restful slumber. While a lot of us recognize the relationship between when and what we eat and when we turn in, we might not realize the actual nutrients of what we eat play a prominent role in how well — or how poorly — we’re sleeping.
How nutrients affect sleep
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who were very short sleepers — less than five hours per night — had less intake of:
- tap water
- lycopene — found in grapefruit and red- and yellow-colored foods
- selenium — found in nuts
- and more lutein — found in leafy greens
People who regularly got the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night had a greater variety of foods in their diets than those who slept less or more.
Foods that can help you sleep betterIf you’re struggling to get quality sleep, resist reaching for a sleep aid and instead try incorporating more of these foods into your diet.
Fish: Fish like salmon, tuna and halibut are rich in vitamin B6, which helps your body produce melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps trigger sleep. Once the sun goes down, your body starts to produce melatonin, which remains in your blood until daylight.
Bananas, almonds, cashews: These foods are rich sources of magnesium, which many of us don’t get enough of in our diets. Prolonged stress, excessive sweating, eating too much salt and drinking too much coffee or alcohol can affect our levels of magnesium. This mineral has been shown to improve sleep quality and length.
Whole-grain crackers and cheese: Whole grains are a great source of complex carbohydrates and magnesium. Combine them with dairy, which has magnesium, tryptophan and calcium and you’ll be feeling ready to snooze in no time.
Tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon: These fruits are excellent sources of lycopene. This antioxidant is known for giving fruits and vegetables their red coloring.
Pretzels or oatmeal: These foods have a high glycemic index, which means when you eat them you’ll get a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. This brief increase helps tryptophan enter your brain, which can help you fall asleep quicker.
While food isn’t a cure-all for sleep issues, eating a varied and healthy diet can help you drift off easier and improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. If you have frequent sleep issues, talk with your doctor.