7 Foods/Beverages That Can Help You Sleep—and 5 That Keep You Awake

Monday Sep 22 | BY |
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Foods for Sleep

Tart cherry juice is one of the many things that will help you fall asleep.

Sleeping pills are not good for you. Recent studies have linked them with hallucinations, sleepwalking, nocturnal eating, driving accidents, and even premature death.

Sometimes, though, you just need to get some sleep. Maybe you have an important event the next morning, or you’ve been struggling with insomnia for some time.

How about food? Turns out that there are several foods and beverages that will actually help you sleep.

    1. Tart cherry juice: A recent 2014 study found that tart cherry juice helps you sleep better at night. Adults with insomnia who drank eight ounces of the juice twice a day for two weeks increased their sleeping time by nearly 90 minutes. These participants also experienced more efficient sleep. Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin—the hormone that helps regulate the sleeping and waking cycle. Researchers theorized that the proanthocyanidins in the cherries also help increase the availability of tryptophan, an amino acid that also helps with sleep.

    2. Bananas: They contain high levels of tryptophan. The body uses tryptophan to make 5-HTP—a compound that turns around and helps manufacturer serotonin and melatonin, which are both important for quality sleep.

    3. Salmon: The key here is omega-3 fatty acids. They’ve been found to help promote good sleep. A 2014 study, for example, found that having higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acid “DHA” is associated with better sleep. (The participants took supplements of 600 mg.)

    4. Raw spinach: Studies have found that magnesium is very important for sleep. In 2012, researchers randomly assigned magnesium (500 mg) or a placebo to participants daily for eight weeks. Those taking the magnesium experienced significant improvements in sleep time and sleep efficiency, and reductions in early morning awakening. In addition to spinach, try squash and pumpkin seeds, mackerel, and soybeans.

    5. White beans: A lack of potassium has been linked with sleep problems. A 1991 study, for instance, found that potassium supplementation increased sleep efficiency and reduced nighttime wakening. You can also try baked potatoes, dried apricots, avocado, and acorn squash.

    6. Jasmine rice: Have you heard of this one? Also called Thai fragrant rice, it’s a nutty variety that’s less sticky than other types. A 2007 study found that men who ate meals that included Jasmine rice four hours before bedtime went to sleep faster than those who ate low-carb meals—most within nine minutes. Researchers theorized that foods like jasmine rice, which are high on the glycemic index (not good for diabetics), can boost tryptophan and serotonin.

    7. Sweet potatoes: These contain the sleep-promoting carbohydrates of jasmine rice, with the relaxing potassium of white beans. Have one of these for dinner and you’re more likely to nod off without struggle.

Foods that Keep You Awake

While you’re choosing foods to help you sleep, be sure you avoid these—they’ll keep you awake or will cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.

  1. Alcohol—it may help you fall asleep, but it will reduce your quality of sleep.
  2. Tomatoes—particularly if you’re sensitive to the acid, these may cause acid reflux. If dinner has tomatoes, be sure to eat it early so you have time to digest before falling asleep. Spicy foods can cause the same problems.
  3. Chocolate—it has caffeine, which can disrupt sleep patterns.
  4. Aged cheese—parmesan, asiago, romano, and other hard cheeses contain tyramine, an amino acid that stimulates the brain. Avoid smoked fish and cured meats for the same reason. Fresh cheese, like mozzarella, is a better choice.
  5. Anything high-fat—these interrupt the sleep cycle, disturbing deep sleep.

Do you choose to eat certain foods before bed to help you sleep? Please share any tips you may have.

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Sources
Mary Wendel, “Study: Tart cherry juice increases sleep time in adults with insomnia,” Weber Shandwick Worldwide, Press Release, April 28, 2014, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-04/wsw-st042814.php.

“Better sleep linked with higher omega-3 levels in new study,” MedicalNewsToday, March 17, 2014, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274097.php.

Behnood Abbasi, et al., “The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial,” J Res Med Sci., December 2012; 17(12):1161-1169, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703169/.

Drennan MD, et al., “Potassium affects actigraph-identified sleep,” Sleep, August 1991; 14(4):357-60, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1947601.

Ahmad Afaghi, et al., “High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset,” Am J Clin Nutr, February 2007; 85(2):426-430, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/2/426.abstract.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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