Getting adequate sleep is key to being healthy, happy and productive, especially if you’ve got a challenging job, are trying to lose weight or enjoy keeping active. But how can you make sure you’re getting solid shut-eye when your head eventually hits the pillow at night? As it turns out, food can have a major bearing on that, and the decisions you make about what to eat and drink in the evening can either make or break a night’s rest. To give you an idea, here are seven foods that will help you sleep better, and some you should definitely avoid at night:
These are an excellent source of potassium and magnesium, which help to relax your muscles and nervous system. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor for the sleep hormone melatonin. Put simply, bananas are packed with nutrients and will help you sleep better in a number of different ways.
Did your mother ever make you a glass of warm milk as you were going to bed at night? Then she knew what she was doing, because the calcium and tryptophan in dairy products both help to induce sleep. Small amounts of plain yogurt and cheese will also work well.
Salmon, herring, trout, sardines and other types of fish are all rich in B vitamins, which are important when it comes to getting enough sleep. These vitamins are involved in the synthesis of melatonin and can relieve mood disorders like anxiety and depression, both of which are causes of insomnia.
While dairy products are probably the best-known source of calcium, leafy greens like kale and spinach are also loaded with this important mineral. Add them to your evening meal as a side salad or combine with bananas and plain yogurt for a late night smoothie that will put you out for the count.
These contain everything you need for a good night’s rest. B vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan—it’s all there. Almonds also help to regulate blood sugar levels, which ensures you don’t wake up weak and fatigued the next morning. If you’re not a fan of nuts, try sneaking a scoop of almond butter into a smoothie instead.
Cherries are one of the only foods known to contain melatonin, so eating them has a direct impact on the quality of your sleep. Tart cherries (also known as sour cherries) are better than sweeter varieties. Either eat them whole or grab a glass of cherry juice just before bed.
7. Sweet Potato
This is a complex carbohydrate food that’s low on the glycemic index, so it will digest and release glucose into your bloodstream slowly overnight. Sweet potatoes are also a source of tryptophan, and they’re rich in muscle-relaxing potassium. Add them to your evening meals in place of white potatoes or rice for a better night’s sleep.
Foods to Avoid
Alcohol is likely to disturb your sleep, so avoid drinking wines, beers and spirits before bed. Steer clear of regular coffee, sugary sodas and chocolate, all of which contain the stimulant caffeine. Whole cuts of meat like beef and chicken take time to digest; make sure you have them early in the evening to give your digestive system time to wind down for the night.
Q: What helps you sleep better? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.