By Karina Heinrich
International Certified Integrative Nutritionist & Founder of The Karina Method
Getting the sleep your body needs is incredibly important for good health. Sleep helps you feel rested and restores vital parts of your brain through non-REM and REM intervals. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is the stage of sleep most commonly associated with dreaming. These dream-filled sleep intervals are the most necessary part of our nightly sleep sessions and according to the National Sleep Foundation, a lack of REM sleep may have adverse implications for physical and emotional health.
Sleep has been shown to support weight loss efforts, reduce your risk of developing many chronic illnesses, boost your immune system and even keep your digestion, brain and hormones healthy and humming. It’s recommended that adults get at least 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each and every night, but most struggle to even get 4-5 hours.
The great news is that there are foods you can eat to help you get a better night’s sleep. Many foods contain nutrients that promote sleep, regulate hormones and brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin. Foods high in magnesium are known to promote sleep, helping you fall and stay asleep efficiently. These powerhouse sleep-promoting foods should be eaten around two-three hours before bed to enhance sleep.
What are serotonin and melatonin?
Serotonin: Serotonin regulates the body’s need and ability to sleep. Any fluctuations in serotonin may lead to fluctuations in the quality of sleep.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain and it regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycles.
Here are nine great foods that can enhance your sleep quality tonight!
1. Bring On The Bananas With Almond Butter
Bananas are one of the only fruits that are rich in serotonin, some of which your body converts to melatonin – both a plus for a good night’s sleep. Almonds and almond butter are also great sources of melatonin, magnesium, healthy fats and vitamin E. Magnesium is a double plus because it may support your body’s production of melatonin. One small banana with approximately one tablespoon of almond butter eaten two-three hours before bed is not only delicious and low calorie, the combination may also improve your sleep.
2. Turn Up The Tart Cherries
Cherries are full of anti-inflammatory benefits and contain the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. One-third cup of dried tart cherries has around 140 calories and should be consumed around two hours before bedtime to reap the benefits. Consume a few salt free nuts with your cherries for a delicious homemade trail mix!
3. Perfect Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds could help you sleep better and spend less time awake. Yes, please. A one-ounce serving size of pumpkin seeds has about 145 calories. These seeds are rich in both tryptophan and magnesium, which have been linked to supporting better sleep. Making sure to eat a few carbs like a half piece of fruit, along with the pumpkin seeds, may encourage your body to route the tryptophan found in the seeds directly to your brain to help make melatonin. Smart body! Make sure the seeds are unsalted.
4. Powerhouse Pistachios
Unsalted pistachios get a gold star when it comes to being chalked full of sleep-promoting melatonin. The amount of melatonin usually recommended to support better sleep is 0.5-5 mg, but just one ounce (a handful) of these high protein nuts has over 6.5 mg of melatonin and comes in around 160 calories. Wow!
5. Eat Up Those Edamame
Green soybeans, also known as edamame, are loaded with protein and tryptophan. You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen. A one-half cup serving is around 150 calories. Delicious and easy! Eat your edamame along with some carbs like veggies or a small piece of fruit to help move the tryptophan to your brain to make melatonin.
6. Gotta Get Gogi Berries
Gogi berries are an amazing antioxidant-rich snack. One-fourth cup of these dried nutrient-filled berries has 150 calories. They are delicious on their own or mixed into cereals, trail mixes and salads. Gogi berries are a combination of both sweet and tart. They contain a good amount of melatonin and can help support great sleep.
7. Excellent Eggs
Eggs are such an easy meal and incredibly delicious. Eggs are filled with 6 grams of good-for-you and easy to digest protein, contain just 72 calories, many vitamins and nutrients and tons of tryptophan. Keep boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick and healthy snack.
8. Keep Up The Kiwis
Kiwis may be able to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and sleep better overall. Kiwis are rich in vitamin C, and you can eat two of them for under 100 calories. Plus, they’re also a natural source of serotonin, which not only helps promote calm and relaxation, but can also curb your appetite.
9. Choosing Chamomile Tea
A cup of hot chamomile tea might just be the perfect before bed ritual. Chamomile tea is filled with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, improve your skin and reduce depression. Plus, chamomile tea can also help improve your sleep quality, promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.