Foods that Help You Sleep Better

Eat your way to a more relaxed, restful night’s sleep with these potent snooze-inducing foods.

  • Woman sleeping

    There are certain things your body can do without; but a good night’s sleep isn’t one of them. While a short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to be alarmed about, chronic sleep loss can leave you with more than just beauty woes (hello puffy, blue-hued circles and sunken peepers!). Sleep plays a vital role in your health and wellbeing. Long-term sleep loss can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power, as well as interfere with learning and memory, and even your level of chipperness, according to reports from Harvard Women’s Health Watch. If you find yourself tossing and turning all night, before you reach for sleeping aids, consider these healthy, whole food alternatives. Aside from being packed with body-loving nutrients, this slumber-inducing fare will help you get the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye, the natural way. Insomniacs, prepare to sleep like a baby!
  • Kiwis

    Sleep-inducing ingredient: antioxidants

    This fuzzy tropical fruit is brimming with vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that not only helps give your immune system a boost, it enhances cell function and repair, and keeps your ticker healthy—it can even help you sleep better. Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University who studied the effects of kiwi consumption on sleep found that those who ate two kiwis one hour before they hit the pillow fell asleep 45 minutes faster, slept longer, and had a higher quality of sleep than those who went without the fruit. The reason: researchers suggest the antioxidants help to ward off free radicals, which have been found to sabotage your natural sleep cycle. What’s more, kiwis are also high in serotonin, a brain chemical that exerts powerful influence over sleep.
  • Almonds

    Sleep-inducing ingredient: magnesium

    Almonds are a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps churn out serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate your sleep-wake cycles. But the key insomnia-busting player is magnesium. A quarter cup of almonds packs a healthy dose (about 99mg) of this mighty mineral which regulates muscle function and help relax muscles, maintain nerve function, support the immune system, regulate heart rhythm, and promote better circulation. Studies have shown many sleep disorders are associated with magnesium deficiency. Research published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine confirms that when the body’s magnesium levels dip too low, it’s harder to stay asleep. Another study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed magnesium was effective at improving overall sleep quality, duration of sleep, and morning alertness. These little gems are also high in fat, so keep before-bed snacking to no more than a handful (about 1 ounce).
  • Kale

    Sleep-inducing ingredient: calcium

    This leafy green is loaded with calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K. Numerous studies have found that calcium deficiency can have a negative impact on your sleep. According to a study published by the European Neurology Journal, calcium levels are higher during some of the deepest levels of sleep, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) phase. The researchers concluded that when calcium levels were low, the result was a disruption in sleep. However, once blood calcium levels were normalized, sleep was restored. Calcium helps the brain manufacture melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain that helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle.

    Kale is also high in potassium, which helps to relax muscles and nerves, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Both have been shown to improve sleep efficiency and total sleep time. In fact, the only place where kale tends to take a nosedive is flavor. Enter kale chips! Drizzle dry kale with olive or coconut oil, sprinkle on a bit of sea salt, then massage the mixture in and lay the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until leaves are crisp. This healthy snack will take care of your nighttime munchies and get you ready for a restful sleep!
  • Cherry

    Sleep-inducing ingredient: melatonin

    Don’t judge this little fruit by its cover: These juicy red orbs pack more than a punch for your taste buds—they’ve also been shown to be powerful snooze-inducers. Tart cherries are high in melatonin, a powerful hormone that helps control your body’s internal clock, which regulates your natural daily rhythms and the quality of your sleep. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that those who drank two daily glasses of tart cherry juice slept better and about 40 minutes longer while reducing their need for daytime napping. Other research found that that drinking tart cherry juice daily helped reduce the severity of insomnia and waking up after drifting off.

    Keep in mind—most studies have been conducted on tart cherries. So as sexy as maraschino cherries are, they might not get you the Z’s you need.
  • Close up of yams

    Sleep-inducing ingredient: carbohydrates

    Whoever coined the phrase carb coma was onto something. Best part is, you can get the same knockout results (actually, much healthier) from complex carbs such as sweet potatoes and yams. Sweet potatoes digest slowly, get into the blood, and are transported to the brain to the boost the levels of serotonin. But that’s not all this rooty vegetable has to offer in terms of promoting a better night’s sleep—it also packs a healthy dose of muscle-relaxing potassium.

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