If you often find yourself staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, you aren’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three American adults aren’t getting the healthy sleep they need on a regular basis. And while there are many potential causes of late night tossing and turning — stress, blue light exposure and underlying health conditions, to name just a few — there is one sneaky culprit in particular that could be sabotaging your sleep efforts: your eating habits.
What you eat (or don’t eat, for that matter) before bed can have a huge impact on your sleep quality. That’s because our eating patterns are closely intertwined with our circadian rhythms — our body’s internal clock that keeps our essential functions running on schedule.
Lack of sleep not only makes us feel sluggish, tired and unable to concentrate, it also increases the risk of serious medical diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure. The good news? Getting quality slumber could be as easy as munching on almonds or taking CBD products before bed. Below, here are seven foods that are believed to promote a restful night’s sleep — plus, three sleep-disrupting foods to avoid.
1. Eat: Kiwi
Craving something sweet after dinner? Skip the sugary dessert and reach for a kiwi fruit instead. This deliciously-tangy fruit from Down Under is low calorie and packed with nutrients, making it an ideal snack before bedtime. Plus, eating kiwis before bed may help you sleep better. In a 2011 study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers asked participants to eat two kiwi fruits one hour before bed for four weeks. The results showed that participants who ate kiwi fruit on a nightly basis fell asleep faster and had better quality sleep compared to the control group.
2. Eat: Turkey
There’s a reason why everyone feels like taking a nap after eating turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey meat contains tryptophan, an amino acid that encourages the production of melatonin. (Of course, your Thanksgiving Day sleepiness could also be due to an influx of carbs, but turkey meat may still play a small role.) Another reason to eat turkey meat for dinner? It’s high in protein, so you won’t be kept up by annoying hunger pains.
3. Drink: Tart Cherry Juice
Want to sleep like a baby? Try pairing your turkey dinner with a glass of tart cherry juice. According to a small study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, tart cherry juice may inhibit an enzyme that degrades tryptophan and increases inflammation in the body. Tart cherry juice is made by extracting the juice from Montmorency cherries, which are a rich source of antioxidants and many other nutrients, including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and phosphorus.
4. Eat: CBD Gummies
If racing thoughts are keeping you up at night, try snacking on CBD gummies about an hour or so before bedtime. Although more controlled clinical studies are needed to assess the effects of CBD on sleep, the existing research is promising. In a series of case studies published in The Permanente Journal, researchers concluded that CBD may be beneficial for anxiety patients struggling with poor sleep. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid compound that won’t get you “high” like THC (a different chemical compound derived from the same plant). As long as you get CBD gummies from a reputable brand, you won’t feel any of the mind-altering effects of THC — only a sense of profound relaxation as you wind down for bed.
5. Eat: Fatty Fish
Can’t decide what to eat for dinner tonight? Put fatty fish on the menu. Wild salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel and other types of fatty fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, types of fats that are essential for a good night’s rest. Omega-3 fatty acids play a central role in the production of serotonin, which in turn helps regulate the body’s sleep/wake cycle. Fatty fish are also high in vitamin D, a nutrient that is involved in the production of melatonin.
6. Eat: Nuts
Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and other nuts are great for sleep. Not only do nuts contain high amounts of protein and healthy fats that will keep you satiated before bed, but they also contain melatonin. Just remember to go easy on them. Nuts are calorie-dense, so make sure that you limit your portions!
7. Drink: Passionflower Tea
No matter what specific ailment is bothering you, chances are there is a natural remedy in the form of a healthy herbal tea. For sleeplessness in particular, you can try steeping dried passionflower in a hot water for five to 15 minutes (the stronger it is, the more potential benefits). Passionflower is a climbing vine that is commonly used as a sedative. A small amount of research has indicated that it may be useful for relieving symptoms of anxiety before bed.
8. Avoid: Dark Chocolate
While it’s true that dark chocolate has some health benefits, promoting a restful night’s sleep isn’t one of them. Dark chocolate is a stimulant, containing approximately 12 milligrams of caffeine per ounce. It also contains small amounts of theobromine — a bitter, naturally-occurring compound which increases your heart rate and contributes to sleeplessness. To avoid the sleep-disturbing effects of chocolate, make sure to indulge in this sweet treat earlier in the day.
9. Avoid: Cruciferous Vegetables
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, they contain tryptophan, which can help you fall asleep. However, cruciferous veggies also contain high amounts of insoluble fiber. Loading up on insoluble fiber before bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep because your body will still be digesting it by the time you go to bed.
10. Avoid: Spicy Foods
Save the Thai food and spicy chicken wings for earlier in the day. Spicy foods have irritant properties that can cause heartburn and acid reflux, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. If you’re grabbing dinner with friends and can’t avoid spicy foods, try eating peanut butter on whole wheat bread as a bedtime snack. Capsaicin, the chemical compound that causes the burning sensation, dissolves in oils and fat.
Eating Your Way to Better Sleep
Diet and sleep are both complex areas, so there is no one food that is key to better sleep. Try experimenting with different foods to figure out what works best for you. Sweet dreams!
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