When it comes to the quest for a better night's sleep, there are two paradigms to keep in mind: quality and duration. Studies show that both of these are affected by our food intake. Despite the correlation between diet and sleep, not clear whether it’s our diet that influences our sleep or vice versa. So it follows that when you’re sleep-deprived, making good food choices isn’t easy, and the foods that we often crave, sugars, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and excessive caffeine — inhibit our ability to get the deep, restorative rest we need. And while we know that higher doses of CBD can help lull you into an interrupted sleep, it’s worth taking a closer look at your eating patterns to give your body the chance to turn things around.
Greens are packed with sleep-friendly nutrients. Magnesium, found in spinach, swiss chard, and kale, reduces stress, balances mood, and promotes relaxation, which helps improve both sleep quality and duration. Calcium-rich greens, like broccoli, collards, mustard greens, and kale, contain tryptophan, an amino acid that enhances your body’s natural production of melatonin. What’s more, carotenoids are powerful antioxidants often associated with helping you ease into sleep.
Fiber-rich whole grains, including brown rice, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, and barley, promote restorative deep sleep and prevent blood sugar spikes that can interfere with melatonin levels. The outer husks of whole grains are also magnesium-rich and full of B vitamins, which regulate tryptophan levels. Refined carbohydrates, like pasta, white bread, and white flour, on the other hand, have been stripped of their fibrous, nutrient-rich husks, which cause blood sugar spikes and can disrupt sleep quality and duration.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and lake trout are a good source of omega 3s and vitamin D — and they’re both important for sleep regulation. Omega 3s are also highly anti-inflammatory, which is beneficial for anyone suffering from sleep apnea. If you don’t like fish or can’t commit to regularly incorporate it into your diet, try a fish oil or marine algae (vegan) supplement.
Certain fruits, like tart cherries, grapes, kiwi, and strawberries, are good sources of melatonin, which is effective in sleep cycle regulation. Tart cherry juice concentrates are easy to find and make in lieu of a nightcap when mixed with sparkling water and a squeeze of lime.
Circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep, is determined by waking activities. Eating at regular times each day, along with setting routines for bedtime, helps create sleep-wake patterns that the body can adjust to. It may also be helpful to eat your largest meal at lunch and a lighter dinner a few hours before bed to allow ample time for digestion. Soup is a great restorative and light dinner. Try this green market soup recipe to get in those extra nutrients.
Mia is a Los Angeles based nutritionist, author of The Well Journal, and founder of RASA, a holistic wellness practice. Through her work, she aims to help people understand their bodies, demystify wellness trends and learn to love nutrient-dense foods, so they can improve their health, and never need to diet, count calories or stress about their food choices again.