If you made a New Year’s resolution to get more sleep in 2020, you’re far from alone. Nearly 70 percent of Americans report struggling with sleep at least once a week, according to research from Consumer Reports. While there are many reasons you may find it hard to fall or stay asleep, making tweaks to your diet can improve your chances of getting quality shuteye. Here are the top foods recommended by experts that may help you get a better night’s rest.
If you are looking for a snack before bed, a small portion of nuts is an excellent choice. “Nuts are a great source of heart-healthy fats, but specific nuts such as walnuts include melatonin, the natural hormone that is released as your body gets ready to rest,” says Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach with Tuck. Almonds are also a good source of magnesium, which has been shown to improve sleep by reducing stress, and may increase melatonin.
Recipe to try: Honey Glazed Nuts
As we all know from a Thanksgiving meal, turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that increases serotonin—which helps regulate sleep, among other functions. In fact, all meats contain some amount of tryptophan. One caveat: It’s not exactly true that turkey makes you feel sleepy right away; it takes a while to have an impact. But it’s worth a shot to see how it makes you feel.
Recipe to try: Smoked Turkey Breast
Tryptophan is also found in dairy products like cottage cheese. “A small bowl of cottage cheese can provide you with lean protein that won’t weigh you down and will provide tryptophan to start the process of getting your mind and body ready for sleep,” says Fish. If you don’t like cottage cheese, swap in a low-sugar Greek yogurt, which has the same sleep-boosting powers.
Recipe to try: Cottage Cheese Toast with a Peppery Zing
Having a small glass of warm milk before bed isn’t just for kids. Dairy milk contains tryptophan, but beyond that, having a nighttime ritual like you may have had as a child can train your body to know when it’s time for bed. “Our bodies crave consistency and a routine, so the combination of the warm temperature, tryptophan and ritual can prepare your body for a great night of sleep,” notes Fish.
Recipe to try: Mom’s Warm Milk
Tart cherry juice is chock-full of nutrients like vitamin A and C as well as melatonin. Studies show that drinking a glass at bedtime may help you fall asleep and improve your sleep quality.
Recipe to try: Fruit and Yogurt Shake
Creamy and satisfying with a little sweetness, bananas are a perfect bedtime snack. They can help you rest easier as they are high in magnesium, says Sujay Kansagra, MD, a sleep health expert with Mattress Firm who’s board certified in sleep medicine. Enjoy a banana with a small scoop of natural nut butter to get the sleep-boosting benefits of nuts, too.
Recipe to try: Quick & Tasty Banana Pudding
Believe it or not, a bowl of post-dinner indulgence can actually be beneficial to your sleep. A brand called Nightfood is formulated with calcium, magnesium, zinc and glycine, making it a powerhouse to induce rest—plus, it has reduced sugar, fat and calories from other premium ice creams.
Recipe to try: Hot Date Ice Cream Sundaes
Caffeine-free teas like jasmine, peppermint, lavender or chamomile can help you relax before bed and embrace feelings of sleepiness, says Dr. Kansagra. However, it’s important to choose a tea that truly is caffeine free to avoid the stimulant effects of caffeine before bed, so check labels carefully.
Recipe to try: Chamomile Lavender Mint Iced Tea
These famous aphrodisiacs also have benefits for helping you catch some ZZZs thanks to their high zinc content, says Summer Yule, a registered dietitian. Studies have linked foods abundant in this mineral to improved sleep. No need to go to a lot of trouble in the kitchen or spend a lot of money on fresh oysters, says Yule—you can get the benefits from high-quality canned versions.
Recipe to try: Oysters with Bacon Mignonette
Yet another reason to eat your greens: Spinach is also a source of tryptophan. Eating lots of it can lead to greater production of the sleep-regulating serotonin and melatonin chemicals in your body, says Torey Armul, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Recipe to try: Strawberry-Spinach Salad
This highly flavorful, nutritious liquid contains an amino acid called glycine, which has been shown to increase quality of sleep in numerous studies. Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian, advises sipping a hot cup of broth before bedtime. Look for a low-sodium brand without preservatives or artificial flavors.
Recipe to try: Chicken Bone Broth
Beans and seeds called pulses, such as chickpeas and lentils, can help support restful sleep, says Manaker. Chickpeas are especially rich in tryptophan and magnesium, as well as Vitamin B6, which is essential for serotonin production. If the thought of eating beans before bed doesn’t sound appealing, try a snack like hummus or roasted chickpeas (Biena even makes a dark chocolate-covered version!)
Recipe to try: Smoky Red Lentil Hummus
This popular summer fruit is full of nutrients like Vitamin B6 and potassium. “Since it contains a high amount of water and provides fiber, it can be a satisfying snack before bed without making you feel uncomfortably full,” says Manaker. Research shows that high potassium and water intake is associated with increased sleepiness.
Recipe to try: Watermelon "Steak" Salad
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