We all know that good quality sleep is important to our health, but there are times when falling asleep (and staying asleep) is difficult. Many things have the potential to prevent your eyes from closing, but there are natural sleep aids and foods that can help you sleep better at night.
To find out more, we spoke to Cara Marrs, a registered nutritionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. We also checked out the latest research on the best foods to help you sleep, including oily fish, tart cherries, almonds, and turkey.
Let’s start with Marrs’ popular sleep drink for bedtime and take a look at our guide to the best mattress for all sleeping styles, as well as the best pillows for every budget to add even more to your nap.
Can not sleep? Make a cup of golden milk
“Golden milk is a wonderful traditional sleeping aid that I often make myself,” begins Cara Marrs, who has been working at RDN since 2008. “Golden milk is typically made from turmeric, ginger, black peppercorns, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks. and your choice of warm milk, whether milk or non-milk.
“You can make Golden Milk from scratch or buy a finished version, but I think the making ritual is wonderful,” says Marrs.
“To make golden milk, heat your milk over medium heat. Add turmeric, cardamom, ginger, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks and simmer for five minutes. Strain into a cup and add honey to taste. “
Foods high in tryptophan can help you fall asleep
“Tryptophan is an amino acid that is involved in protein synthesis and a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, which are known to help regulate mood and sleep,” explains Marrs.
“It is not recommended to take L-tryptophan as a dietary supplement, but some of the foods high in tryptophan include:
- cottage cheese
Foods rich in magnesium can also help
Magnesium has become a popular sleep aid, but many people are confused about what type of magnesium to take, how much, and when. Here is Marrs’ attitude: “Magnesium glycinate is often the best magnesium supplement for people suffering from insomnia and fear.
“Magnesium can be used for many different reasons and is very important for many functions in the body. It plays a role in heart health, bone density, and quality of sleep, and can help with muscle spasms and constipation. “
Which foods are rich in magnesium, says Carr: “Seeds like pumpkin seeds, avocados, dark chocolate, potatoes with skin, edamame and tofu, almonds, cashews, peanuts and black beans – there are many others.”
Valerian root and natural sleep aids
Natural sleep aids like valerian root are becoming increasingly popular. But what is it, how is it used and is it safe for most people?
“Valerian root can be used as an effective sleep aid and is generally recommended as safe, however it is warned in pregnancy and in young children due to a lack of studies“Explains Mars.
“Valerian root is often recommended in doses of 300-600 mg taken 30 minutes before bed, and many people report that it works well for sleep and insomnia. However, some report drowsiness the next day, so understand that you may react differently than someone else.
“As with all herbal sleeping pills, some may interact with or increase the effects of your prescription antidepressants Talk to your doctor before taking if you are taking any prescription sleep medication or antidepressants. You should also avoid alcohol when taking herbal sleeping pills. “
5 everyday foods that will help you sleep better
Sour cherries – According to a 2014 study, “Consuming a tart cherry juice concentrate leads to an increase in melatonin, which is beneficial in coping with sleep disorders.”
In a pilot study examining the effectiveness of tart cherry juice for sleep, researchers concluded that “tart cherry juice is an effective treatment for insomnia”. Participants drank 240 ml twice a day for two weeks.
Almonds – A natural source of melatonin (a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm and makes your body fall asleep). One ounce of almonds also provides 19% of your daily magnesium needs; Magnesium is important for many body functions, including sleep.
Turkey – Contains the amino acid tryptophan, which boosts melatonin production. Turkey is a source of protein, and there is evidence that a moderate amount of protein before bed can help you sleep better (and sleep through better).
Oily fish – Mackerel, trout, salmon and tuna are high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA. This magical combination has been shown to increase the production of serotonin and improve the quality of sleep.
In an article by sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus says: “Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids from regular consumption of fish can improve the quality of your sleep, help you fall asleep faster, and improve your daily performance.”
Camomile tea – Chamomile contains an antioxidant called apigenin that promotes drowsiness. A 2011 study examining the effectiveness of chamomile extract on insomnia found that participants who consumed 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days fell asleep faster and woke up less at night.
Why breakfast is an important meal for sleep
If you have breakfast shortly after you wake up, you are signaling to the brain that it is morning (which in turn helps to synchronize your internal clock so that you can sleep more easily at night). But what if breakfast is the first thing you can’t stand?
“First I would ask what the person is having for dinner and what time they are eating,” says Marrs. “A diet that is too high in sugar, too high or too low in carbohydrates can lead to nausea in the morning due to hyper- or hypoglycaemia.
“Also, if the person eats extremely late or even in the middle of the night, they may not have digested their food properly at breakfast.
“If that still doesn’t help, I would suggest having something to eat soon after you wake up, even if it’s half a slice of toast or half a banana, and then focusing on breakfast an hour or two later. Often times, nausea can also result from dehydration, so I would suggest a smoothie. It can help if breakfast is something drinkable. “
Eating and Sleeping: The Do’s and Don’ts of a Dietitian
Marrs has some final advice for those of you exploring the relationship between food and drink and sleep. You will have come across some of them before, but they are definitely worth repeating again. Here’s what Marrs recommends:
- Finish eating at least two hours before bedtime.
- If possible, no caffeine after noon and especially not before bed.
- Limit dark chocolate or other stimulants.
“Limit alcohol consumption at least two hours before bed, and if you have insomnia I would limit that altogether. Alcohol can help you relax before bed, but there is a mountain of research showing that the effects of alcohol interact with your ability to fall into deep REM sleep. “
Looking for more sleep content? Then take a look at our guide to the best memory foam mattress for pressure relief, as well as our roundup of the best mattress toppers for instant comfort. If you’re dealing with anxiety, learn how a good weighted blanket or cozy comforter can help you feel calmer in bed.