Which Foods Support Better Sleep and Which Ones Disrupt It?
We all know that our lifestyle choices can impact the quality of our sleep. According to Kelly O'Brien, a board-certified health and wellness coach at Proper, what we eat plays a critical role in just how soundly we rest every night. "There are many delicious, nutritious, and natural foods that can help with achieving good sleep," she explains, noting that several have snooze-boosting natural iterations of melatonin, magnesium, and tryptophan built in. Ahead, a list of foods that will ease your ability to drift to sleep—and some snacks that hinder it.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts offer natural sources of melatonin, as well as the amino acid tryptophan (yes, the magical compound in turkey that makes you so sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner), says O'Brien, which plays an important part in the production of serotonin and melatonin. "Additionally, they're filled with magnesium, an essential mineral for bone, brain, heart, and muscle health," she says. "Like nuts, seeds, such as flax, pumpkin, and sunflower, may support healthy sleep due to their high levels of tryptophan, which also supports serotonin and melatonin production."
Dairy and Milk
Drinking milk (especially warm milk!), snacking on plain yogurt, or eating cottage cheese are all great options when it comes to dairy-rich foods that support sleep, O'Brien shares. This is because they, like seeds and nuts, also include tryptophan.
O'Brien notes that bananas can improve sleep quality; in addition to potassium, they contain magnesium and tryptophan. "Kiwifruit is another strong option: It contains a high concentration of antioxidants and vitamins, such as folate," she adds. And you can't go wrong with tart cherries or cherry juice, both of which are natural sources of melatonin and may lead to improved sleep duration and quality.
Foods That Are Deleterious to Sleep
On the other hand, there are certain foods and beverages that should be avoided if you're hoping to improve sleep quality. Stay away from processed foods that contain high amounts of carbs and sugar, which can be activating and inflammatory. "If it comes in a package and has more than five or so ingredients, it's likely processed and best avoided if possible," O'Brien explains. "Greasy and spicy foods can cause bloating and indigestion, making it harder for sleep to take hold."
If you're eating foods with the end goal of a good night's rest, finish snacking at least three to four hours before you plan to tuck yourself in, says O'Brien. Additionally, you should create an intentional wind-down period before falling asleep—and always avoid alcohol before bed. "Even though a glass of wine, beer, or liquor helps you relax and fall asleep, it can really impact sleep quality," she explains. "Getting into the important sleep stages that help us rest and repair can be hijacked by the alcohol."