Food can impact our energy levels, whether it’s feeling more aware after a morning coffee or lethargic after a Christmas Day lunch. Our diet is linked to quality of sleep and serves as the backbone for health.
It’s no secret that both nutrition and sleep play a fundamental role in our health, but the complex and important relationships between them are frequently overlooked.
Diet and nutrition can influence the quality of your sleep, and certain foods and drinks can make it easier or harder to get the sleep that you need. At the same time, getting enough sleep is associated with maintaining a healthier body weight and can be beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight.
Recognising the connections between sleep and nutrition creates opportunities to optimize both in order to eat smarter, sleep better, and live a healthier life.
With this in mind, here are some foods that may help you find peaceful sleep.
Top 5 foods to eat before bed
Bananas contain a tryptophan, a protein involved in our sleep, which helps to produce serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter than influences sleep and mood, while melatonin is a hormone the body naturally produces, and is involved in our sleep-wake cycle, helping to regulate our body’s circadian rhythm. Bananas also contain carbohydrates, carbs before bed can be helpful for our sleep so don’t hesitate if you feel like having a banana after dinner for a sweet snack option!
For those who aren’t dessert people or don’t snack after dinner this could be for you. A research study found that over a period of time, those who ate fish and ocean dwelling critters (such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, sea moss) a few times a week reported better sleep quality and better daytime alertness than those who ate less or none.
This was contributed to the vitamin D and omega-3 content of fish, which has known impacts on brain health and function, as well as the vitamin B6 which encourages production of melatonin. When you know you are having a late night at work or are busy and stressed, choose fatty fish as your protein choice with dinner to help your sleep and recovery.
If you have 2 kiwi fruits one hour before bed sleep quality may improve. It is thought that this could be due to the antioxidant content of kiwi fruit and the serotonin content. Kiwifruit possess numerous vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamins C and E as well as potassium and folate.
Some research has found that eating kiwi can improve sleep. In a study, people who ate two kiwis one hour before bedtime found that they fell asleep faster, slept more, and had better sleep quality.
Due to their high melatonin content, Tart cherries relate to some sleep improvement. The body naturally produces melatonin, but research suggests that melatonin might be useful in sleep disorders. Note that tart cherries and tart cherry juice are more beneficial than sweet varieties, as sweet cherries have much lower levels of melatonin. However, if difficult to source, a handful of berries after dinner could also do the trick!
There are a number of nut varieties that are considered good for sleep, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews. Nuts contain melatonin and minerals like magnesium and zinc that are essential to your health. In a clinical trial using supplements, it was found that a combination of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc helped older adults with insomnia get better sleep.