Whether it’s feeling energized from a cup of coffee or drowsy after a full plate of turkey, most people have experienced how different foods and drinks affect energy, alertness, and sleep. Diet and sleep are complex, so there is no single food or drink that can guarantee a sound sleep. However, there are some key foods and drinks that may alleviate your tossing and turning and aid with getting a better night’s rest:
A steaming warm beverage may be just what you need to induce sleep. Herbal teas such as chamomile tea can be used to promote relaxation, drowsiness and act as a natural sleep aid.
Nutritional benefits: A tiny flower in the daisy family, the dried flowers of chamomile contain antioxidants (flavonoids and terpenoids) that promote sleepiness. As an herbal tea, chamomile doesn’t contain caffeine so it won’t keep you up the way a regular caffeinated tea might.
Alternatives: Other good options for pre-bedtime herbal teas include passionflower, lemon balm, and valerian root teas.
Warm milk is a common home remedy if you are having difficulty sleeping. Like a cup of tea, drinking warm milk can be part of a relaxing nightly ritual to bring you a feeling of comfort before bedtime.
Nutritional benefits: Calcium-rich dairy foods such as milk contain several sleep-promoting compounds: the amino acid tryptophan, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. Nicknamed the “happy hormone”, serotonin plays a role in boosting mood and improving feelings of calmness. Serotonin in turn increases production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle and induces a feeling of sleepiness.
Alternatives: If you don’t like drinking milk, try snacking on other calcium-rich foods before bed, such as yogurt or cheese.
Nutritional benefits: A one-ounce (28 gram) serving of almonds provides 77 milligrams of magnesium and 76 milligrams of calcium, two essential minerals that help promote relaxation and sleep. Almonds also make a good evening snack because they are rich in healthy fats, low in saturated fat, and low in sugar.
Alternatives: A handful of nuts such as walnuts, cashews, or pistachios can also make a good pre-bedtime snack to help induce sleepiness.
Fatty, oily fish such as salmon, trout, and mackerel may provide a positive impact on sleep. Fatty fish is an excellent protein-rich option and has numerous health benefits beyond sleep.
Nutritional benefits: Fatty fish is a major dietary source of omega-3 essential fatty acids and vitamins D, nutrients that may play important roles in the regulation of sleep. In one study, men who ate Atlantic salmon three times a week for six months, fell asleep faster than those who consumed non-fish meals.
Alternatives: If you’re not a fan of fish, other protein-rich foods that can help with sleep include turkey, chicken, and pork chops.
If you like to snack on fruit, you may want to add kiwifruit to your plate before bedtime. This small but mighty fruit has been shown to help you fall asleep faster, increase total sleep time, and improve overall sleep quality.
Nutritional benefits: Rich in fibre, vitamin C, and potassium, kiwifruit is naturally good for you. But thanks to its high content of antioxidants and serotonin, this fruit may be a good addition to your diet if you want to get some more sleep.
Alternatives: Tart cherries and bananas are other fruits that have been linked to better sleep.
Here are some additional tips for how eating and drinking can help ensure you get a better night’s sleep:
Don’t eat or drink too close to bedtime. Try and finish your last meal at least two to three hours before going to bed to ensure you allow enough time for proper digestion to occur. This can help prevent both heartburn and insomnia.
Stay away from spicy and acidic foods. Eating foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate, and spicy or fried foods too close to bedtime can cause heartburn, and the symptoms get worse when you lie down at night.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol. If you’re having trouble sleeping, stop drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages in the afternoon or evening, at least four to six hours before bedtime. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it can disrupt the quality of your sleep and should be avoided in the evening hours to ensure a good night’s rest.
Stay hydrated. While you don’t want to drink too much before bedtime to prevent middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks, you don’t want to wake up dehydrated either. Sip on water or non-caffeinated beverages such as herbal tea to stay hydrated before bed.