8 Foods That Help You Sleep

Eating too much is not only bad for your waistline, it’s also bad for your sleep. Big meals take a long time to digest. They also increase your risk of heartburn or reflux. Sleep deprivation and obesity go hand-in-hand. People who are sleep-deprived often turn to sugary, salty and fatty foods, which creates a positive feedback cycle. Weight gain increases the risk of many chronic diseases, too. Sleep deprivation is also associated with heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Here are six types of food and some recipe ideas that won’t affect your sleep or your weight.

1. Milk

Unless you’re lactose-intolerant, one serving of milk about 30 minutes before bedtime could help you sleep better. The longstanding advice to drink warm milk before bed has scientific merit. Milk contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps your body produce melatonin and serotonin. You need those chemicals for quality sleep. You could also add a splash of milk to an herbal sleep tea such as green tea which also shares the same sleep aiding chemicals for the human body.

2. Beans

The legume types of beans contain lots of fiber, which helps you feel full without overeating. A serving of soy beans contains your daily recommended allowance of tryptophan. Navy, black and pinto beans are also good choices. A bowl of chili, cold bean salad with tomatoes and corn or high-protein pasta with edamame could help you sleep better.

Beans are jammed packed with B vitamins such as B12, B6 and folic acid which all help your body regulate sleep cycles. They are also shown to increase your natural levels of serotonin which helps you relax at night before bed. The legume family includes soy, carob, lupins, beans, peas, alfalfa, and mesquite.

3. Nuts

Nuts contain healthy fats, protein and essential minerals. In particular, one serving of walnuts contains almost all of the tryptophan your body needs in one day. Walnuts also contain melatonin. Add walnuts to a salad or wrap. They’re also a good choice for topping pancakes or yogurt. For a fast and simple dinner, try whole grain toast topped with a nut butter.

4. Spinach

Raw spinach leaves contain calcium and tryptophan. They also contain vitamin B6, which your body needs for energy. Pair spinach with tomatoes and walnuts for a healthy salad. Add a layer of spinach leaves on a sandwich or wrap. Spinach leaves are also a good addition to a fruit smoothie. Spinach can be cooked without losing many of its nutrients. If spinach isn’t your thing, try cherries. They also contain melatonin and make a great evening snack or healthy dessert.

5. Fish

If you’re looking for a quick and nutritious protein for dinner, try halibut, tuna, salmon, cod or snapper. Grill, saute or bake them. Instead of cooing them in oil or butter, wrap the filet in foil with a quick spritz of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice or shake of lemon pepper. Add grilled fish to a salad for a satisfying meal. These fish contain vitamin B6, which helps you make melatonin and serotonin. Their healthy fats are also good for your body.

6. Chicken

Not fried wings dipped in a sugary sauce, but grilled chicken breast is a good option for promoting quality sleep. Chicken contains more tryptophan than turkey. Use it in soup with vegetables and wild rice for a hearty dinner on a cold winter’s night. Add grilled chicken to a salad. It also works well in white chili, tossed with pasta or paired with a variety of vegetables in a lightly-seasoned stir fry.

7. Kiwi

This Down Under fruit is packed with antioxidants, serotonin, vitamins E & C and carotenoids. Kiwi is also rich in folate. Folate deficiency is tied to health issues such as insomnia. In fact, the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study which found that participants who ate two kiwi’s 1 hour before bed every night for one month fell asleep 35% faster than those who didn’t.

8. Cherries

People who drank one ounce of cherry juice daily reported sleeping longer and more soundly than those who didn’t in a study conducted by the European Journal of Nutrition. It’s no wonder why since cherries contain large amounts of melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the human body which signals that it’s time to go to sleep. Create a bed time routine of cherries before bed to get more restful sleep.