Are you skimping on sleep to try and cram more into every day? Sacrificing your sleep can have detrimental effects on your health. Sleep has been extensively studied by scientists who have found that it is necessary for immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.
Struggling to lose weight? Lack of sleep may be to blame. Research has shown that getting inadequate sleep for five days can lead to a two pound weight gain. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep leads to
- Increased levels of ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”
- Decreased levels of leptin, the “fullness hormone”
- An increase of 300 calories per day consumed, typically from high-fat foods
- Eat more at night
- Increased carbohydrate consumption
Getting enough sleep is important. You can help catch up on some zzz’s by eating more foods that help you sleep, and less of those that don’t.
Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your body’s internal clock. When it is dark, your body produces more melatonin, and less when it is light. Eating foods that can provide more melatonin, particularly nearing bedtime, can help reset your internal clock if insomnia, night shifts, or too much nocturnal playtime has sent them awry. In one study, two glasses of tart cherry juice a day helped reduce the severity of insomnia in chronic suffering adults.
In order for your body to produce melatonin, it needs plenty vitamin B6. Salmon, halibut, and tuna are great sources of this vitamin. In addition, the omega-3 essential fatty acids found in salmon provide even more benefits that may help you get a good night’s sleep. Researchers at Ohio State University found that omega-3s were associated with reduced anxiety and better sleep in study participants.
Yogurt and kefir are both cultured dairy foods that help you sleep. High protein foods, like dairy products, contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps induce sleep. The real sleep promoting power in these foods, however, comes down to the probiotic cultures that help keep your gut colonized with “good” microorganisms. Scientists have found that the human biome, the microorganisms that call your body home, impact your brain health. Gut microbes influence your sleep, memory, mood, and even stress levels. Fueling up on cultured dairy will keep the good bacteria in your gut healthy so you can sleep better.
Pairing carbohydrates such as oatmeal with proteins such as yogurt can make the tryptophan amino acids in protein more available to the brain. Carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, which clears other amino acids from the blood stream and facilitates tryptophan’s entry to the brain. The raise in blood sugar also helps to make you feel sleepy.
Whole grains, such as oatmeal, bulgur, and barley are a great source of magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral that can help reduce stress, help you relax, and improve sleep quality. Oats, like cherries, are also a natural source of melatonin as well.
Bananas are another carbohydrate that could be paired with a protein for a good night’s sleep. Bananas are a good source of the vitamin B6 your body needs to produce melatonin, plus contain magnesium and potassium to help relax your nerves and muscles.
A handful of almonds will provide plenty of tryptophan, trace amounts of omega-3s, and magnesium. One of magnesium’s many roles in the body include relaxing muscles, releasing any part of your body that is tight, stiff, cramped, or irritated. It can even steady your heart rhythm.
7. Herbal Tea
When all else fails, a glass of herbal tea may be just the thing you need to gently send you off to dreamland. Herbs such as chamomile, passionflower, or lemon balm are commonly used to promote relaxation and better sleep.
Avoid These Foods For Better Sleep
Just as some foods can help you get to sleep, others can do the opposite. It should go without saying, but caffeinated beverages such as coffee, sodas, and energy drinks should be avoided later in the afternoon and before bedtime. Certain foods have caffeine, too. Coffee flavored foods such as ice cream, chocolate candies, and even hot cocoa mixes before bed could keep you awake.
Aged cheeses and processed meats contain high levels of an amino acid, tyramine, that makes your brain release a chemical that will make you feel alert and awake. Skip the Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, or salami at dinner time. If you suffer from indigestion or heartburn, spicy foods should also be avoided.
If you are eating the right foods for good sleep, and avoiding the bad ones, you should start to see improvement. Other ways to improve sleep include stretching, meditation, yoga, working out earlier in the day, taking a warm bath before bedtime, using lavender-scented essential oils, and making sure your bedroom is completely dark at bedtime (banish electronic devices, including your cell phone, to another room completely). By making some small changes and choosing the right foods, you can be on your way to better sleep, and better health, in no time.