Twin Cities Edition

Eat Right to Sleep Well

10 Foods Help Us Relax and Rest

Dean Drobot/Shutterstock.com

Getting enough sleep—or not—has a trickle-down effect. A study in the Journal of Obesity shows that good quality shut-eye helps us reduce stress, lose weight and function better.

Research also shows that most Americans would be healthier, happier and safer going about their daily activities if they slept 60 to 90 more minutes each night, according to the American Psychological Association. A consistent sleep routine helps enable a good night’s rest, with activities like going to bed at the same time whenever possible; shutting down the Internet, email and text messaging at least an hour before bedtime; and limiting intake of caffeine and alcohol.  

Another best practice is eating foods that help us relax, fall and stay asleep. Four primary sleep-promoting vitamins and minerals naturally found in foods are tryptophan, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6. Some of these help the body produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the body’s sleep/wake patterns called circadian rhythms. Others enhance serotonin, which carries nerve signals and relays messages in the brain related to mood and sleep.

Some foods are naturally packed with these essential vitamins and minerals, and eating certain foods at certain times can help us tip the scale towards a successful night of restful sleep.
 

Kiwi1 Kiwi. Full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate, kiwi can help us sleep longer. In a study at Taipei Medical University, in Taiwan, researchers had participants eat two kiwifruits one hour before bedtime for four weeks. Total sleep time improved by 13.4 percent.

 


 

Soy2 Soy. In a Japanese study published in the Nutrition Journal, researchers surveyed 1,076 participants between 20 and 78 on how often they ate soy products, which are rich in sleep-enhancing isoflavones. Those that ate the most soy foods enjoyed deeper, more sustained sleep. Researchers concluded that soy’s isoflavones help regulate the sleep/wake cycle.

 

 

Tart Cherry Juice3 Tart cherry juice. A  study by the University of Rochester, in New York, found that older adults drinking two, eight-ounce servings of tart red cherry juice daily, one in the morning and one at night for two weeks, enjoyed moderate sleep improvement, comparable to taking the herb valerian and melatonin.

 

 

Salmon4 Fish. Salmon, halibut, mackerel and tuna help boost the production of vitamin B6, which helps make melatonin. A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania published in Scientific Reports found that eating more fish led both to better sleep and improved cognitive function in children.

 

 

Chia Seeds5 Fiber-rich foods. Choices such as chia seeds, nuts and whole grains help promote restorative “slow-wave” sleep, according to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

 

 

 

 

Yogurt6 Calcium-fortified yogurt. According to Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician in Pasadena, California, and author of The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Rest for the Whole Family, “Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are some of the top sleep-inducing foods.”

 

 

Banana7 Bananas. Rich in potassium, magnesium, tryptophan and vitamin B6, which are used to make melatonin, bananas help promote good sleep. A study in the Journal of Pineal Research found that men that ate two bananas at a time for a week had a rise in melatonin that reached a peak two hours later; pineapple juice and orange juice also raised those levels.

 

 

Walnuts8 Walnuts. Eating a handful of walnuts an hour before bedtime provides fiber- supporting, restorative, slow-wave sleep, concluded a study in the journal Nutrition. Plus, walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, which helps make serotonin and melatonin; University of Texas researchers also found that walnuts contain their own source of melatonin.

 

 

Kale9 Dark leafy greens. Kale, spinach and collard greens are among the magnesium-rich greens that can help us de-stress and go to sleep, says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a professor of pulmonary and sleep medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

 

 

Dates10 Almonds and dates. Nerina Ramlakhan, Ph.D., a London sleep therapist and author of Fast Asleep but Wide Awake: Discover the Secrets of Restorative Sleep and Vibrant Energy, counsels her clients to start at breakfast by eating eight almonds and two dates. These two fiber-rich foods are able to slowly help produce melatonin for later in the day.
 

 
Judith Fertig writes cookbooks and foodie fiction from Overland Park, KS.


This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Letter from the Publisher

We wait all winter to enjoy the longer, warmer days of summer, only to have them disappear far too soon. I think back to when I was a child and summer seemed to go on forever. We were so excited to go back to school, meet up with our friends and get back to the busy-ness of the school year.

Exhibitor Space Still Available at Healthy Life Expo

MediaMax Events, St. Louis Park, announces the availability of select exhibitor space for the 31st Healthy Life Expo, being held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on November 17 and 18, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

37th Annual Women and Spirituality Conference in Rochester

The Women and Spirituality Conference, to be held September 22 to 23, will be hosted for the second year in Rochester at the Mayo Civic Center.

The Largest American Tributary to the Great Lakes is On the Mend

Leo Tolstoy opened his epic tale Anna Karenina with this powerful observation: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The same could probably be said about rivers. Happy rivers are healthy, clean, teeming with fish and fowl, abundant with life, responsive to the seasons and beautiful to behold.

Moving Sale at Crystalline Light

Jennifer Salness, owner of Crystalline Light, in St. Paul, will be holding a large moving sale from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on August 11, to clear out inventory in preparation for moving into her new location this fall.

Add your comment: