A good night’s sleep is critically important to good health. There are many strategies you can use to improve your sleep patterns, and your diet is one of them. In fact, what you’re eating (or not eating) before bed might be contributing to your inability to get a good night’s rest.
Going to bed hungry is definitely bad for a good night’s rest, but eating just before you go to bed can keep you up as it induces digestion instead of rest. This is why the experts recommend that you avoid eating 2 – 3 hours before you go to bed.
Essential Minerals and Hormones
Factors contributing to insomnia include vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Stress also causes insomnia by making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, and by affecting the quality of your sleep.
Here are the 6 most essential minerals and hormones that your body needs for a good night’s rest. If you suffer from insomnia, you need to become familiar with them because all play a key role in the quality and quantity of sleep you’ll get for the rest of your life:
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is found in many protein-rich foods. We must get it through our diets because your body cannot produce it for itself. Tryptophan helps the body produce melatonin and serotonin, important hormones that help to induce and maintain restful sleep.
Eating proteins with a high amount of tryptophan can improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep. It is however important to understand the impact of the “tryptophan paradox”.
Simply eating tryptophan-rich foods is not enough to get the required amounts of tryptophan into your brain where it can influence the production of serotonin and melatonin. The basic issue is that protein foods that are rich in tryptophan also contain certain amino acids that prevent tryptophan from getting to the brain to do its work.
Consequently when you eat high protein, tryptophan-rich foods, you become more anxious, irritable and actually experience more difficulty sleeping. To get the required amount of brain tryptophan, it’s important to combine protein-rich foods with a carbohydrate such as bread, potatoes or yoghurt.
Serotonin is an important hormone that is produced by tryptophan and helps one feel relaxed, happy and confident. Low levels of serotonin in the body are associated with negative thoughts, low self-esteem, anxiety, obesity, depression and insomnia.
Also known as “your sleepy hormone”, melatonin is both a hormone and antioxidant that is naturally produced by tryptophan. Melatonin helps your body regulate sleep and wakefulness, which makes it one of the most important nutrients to help you optimize your sleep.
Your body naturally produces more melatonin at night, and levels usually start to go up in the evenings. Production is reduced as the sun rises. Melatonin is available as an unregulated dietary supplement, but you should check with your doctor before taking it as one.
Magnesium is a mineral that is naturally produced in the body and helps to relax the muscles so you can fall asleep more easily. It is well known for its ability to relieve insomnia by decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone that can keep you up at night.
Magnesium is naturally present in many foods, and eating magnesium-rich foods helps you get sounder, more satisfying sleep. It is also available as a dietary supplement. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough magnesium, changing your diet might be a better option than taking it as an oral supplement.
Potassium is an essential mineral that the body needs in order to soothe and relax the muscles. It is naturally present in many foods and available as a dietary supplement. Lack of potassium can lead to difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is found in some foods, and available as a dietary supplement. Calcium is a natural sleep aid that helps the body produce melatonin, the hormone that helps your body maintain its sleep-wake rhythm and have a restful, uninterrupted asleep.
According to research published in the European Neurology Journal, researchers found disturbances in sleep, especially the absence of deep sleep or disturbed sleep, are related to a calcium deficiency. When you are deficient in calcium, you may wake up soon after falling asleep and have trouble getting back to sleep. Research shows that consuming calcium-rich foods or taking a calcium supplement before bed can help you fall asleep and sleep well.
10 Foods That Boost A Good Night’s Rest
Here are 10 simple, tasty and nutritious options with sleep inducing minerals and vitamins that can help you get the 7-8 hours of sleep that are so essential for good health:
Almonds are a rich source of sleep-inducing magnesium and tryptophan that help us produce sleep-inducing melatonin. If you’re having trouble sleeping, a handful of almonds may be all you need.
Oatmeal a natural source of melatonin, which regulates your sleep and wakeup cycle. Oatmeal is also very high in vitamin B3, which helps increase the production of tryptophan, which encourages relaxation and uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Pumpkin seeds are some of the highest sources of tryptophan. However, due to the tryptophan paradox described above, the addition of a carbohydrate when eating tryptophan-rich foods like pumpkin seeds is important. If eaten on its own, brain tryptophan levels will decrease, and instead of sleeping, you’ll remain wide awake.
This means that in order to get the right amount of tryptophan from pumpkin or sunflower seeds, you need to eat these foods with a carbohydrate such as yoghurt. These super seeds can help you manage stress and will help you stimulate the chemicals in your brain that help you get restful sleep.
Turkey is another food that is very rich in tryptophan. However, thanks to the tryptophan paradox already alluded to, if eaten on its own, brain tryptophan levels will actually decrease rather than increase. As is the case with pumpkin seeds, you need to eat turkey with a carbohydrate like bread, potatoes or rice to get the required amount of brain tryptophan.
Walnuts are rich in melatonin, which a hormone that is naturally produced in the body and helps to regulate sleep and wakefulness. It is also high in the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan that also helps to relieve stress. Note that walnuts are not for everyone because of a possible allergic reaction. If you have insomnia, you should consult your doctor before eating them to induce sleep.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut are high in tryptophan and Vitamin B6, which your body needs in order to make melatonin and serotonin. Over the years, numerous studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish improves intelligence and induces sleep. Most recently, research by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found a link between fish and a higher IQ, as well as better quality sleep.
Kiwi is a superfood that packs a punch. Loaded with Vitamin C, it has powerful antioxidant properties, which helps boost the immune system. According to research by Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University, eating kiwi on a daily basis was linked to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and sleep quantity. What makes kiwi such a powerful sleep-inducing food is its high antioxidant levels and its high serotonin levels, which contributes to several aspects of sleep.
Bananas induce sleep because they are high in tryptophan, B vitamins, and the muscle relaxants magnesium and potassium. This makes bananas one of the most effective sleep inducing foods.
Spinach is high in magnesium and potassium which are muscle relaxants that promote healthy sleep. Spinach also contains calcium which helps the body produce melatonin and induces better sleep.
Dairy foods such as hard boiled eggs, yoghurt and cheese promotes good sleep because they contain tryptophan which is an amino acid that relieves stress and induces sleep. Dairy foods are also an excellent source of calcium, which is one of the top sleep-inducing vitamins.
Soyfoods such as tofu and edamame are rich in isoflavones, which increase the production of serotonin. According to a 2015 nutritional study, adults who ate two or more soy servings a day slept longer and reported the best-quality sleep.
Collard greens are rich in healthful vitamins and minerals, offering one of the richest plant-food sources of calcium. Collard greens are also a rich source of potassium, magnesium and choline, essential nutrients that help with sleep.
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the more fiber found in a person’s diet, the more time they spent in restorative sleep. Broccoli is a fiber-filled food that is loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals proven to help the body’s natural detoxification process. Broccoli also contains tryptophan, which helps in the production of serotonin, which induces and regulates sleep. Note however, that broccoli is also loaded with slow-digesting insoluble fiber which can take your body a while to digest. This means you will stay up if you eat it too close to bedtime. If you will be eating broccoli to help you sleep, make sure you have it a few hours before you go to bed.