Can Diet Improve Sleep? Experts Share Foods That Support Healthy Sleep
Registered nutritionist Gabi Zaromskyte explains that the relationship between diet and sleep is a two-way street. "What we eat and drink affects our sleep, but also, the quality and duration of sleep can affect our food choices," she says. "Scientific research has increasingly shed light on the significant impact of dietary choices on cognitive function, mood, and overall physical and mental health."
Zaromskyte, the founder of Honestly Nutrition, highlights that certain dietary patterns and specific nutrients can influence the sleep-wake cycle, sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), and sleep architecture (the different stages of sleep). She also emphasizes that the quality and timing of our food and beverage intake can impact the production of sleep-regulating hormones, such as melatonin, which plays a critical role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle.
Dr. Maja Schaedel, co-founder of The Good Sleep Clinic, adds a word of caution. While certain foods may be higher in melatonin, it doesn't necessarily mean they will help you fall asleep quicker. Other factors, such as sleep habits and routines, also play a crucial role. Dr. Schaedel advises having your evening meal at least two hours before bedtime to avoid indigestion and spikes in blood sugar and body temperature.
For those who feel peckish later in the evening, Dr. Schaedel suggests a snack about an hour or two before bed. Ideally, the snack should be high in protein, such as Greek yogurt or nuts, and low in complex carbohydrates to avoid fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
It's also important to avoid foods that can trigger discomfort and interfere with sleep, such as fatty and spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco, according to Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity.
So, which foods are considered sleep-friendly? Experts recommend the following:
While diet alone cannot solve all sleep issues, incorporating these sleep-friendly foods into your diet may contribute to improved sleep quality and overall well-being. Remember that individual experiences may vary, and it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice on improving sleep.
Omega-3 rich foods: Although research is limited, omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts, oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines), chia seeds, and flaxseeds may contribute to better, longer sleep.
Magnesium-rich foods: Magnesium plays a crucial role in sleep regulation. Foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds, and dark chocolate (packed with antioxidants) are cited for their potential to improve sleep quality.
Almonds: Almonds are an excellent source of calcium and magnesium, promoting muscle relaxation and helping regulate melatonin levels.
Bananas: Rich in magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan, bananas are a great choice for supporting sleep. Blending one banana with milk or soy milk can make an ideal evening drink.
Low sugar cereals: Complex carbohydrate-rich foods increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream, potentially aiding in sleep.
Cherries: Tart cherries, in particular, have been found to naturally boost the production of melatonin. Studies have shown improvements in sleep quality and duration when consuming Montmorency cherries or tart cherry juice.
Cheese: Contrary to popular belief, cheese, and other dairy products, contain tryptophan and calcium, which can aid in relaxation and reduce stress.