Most big meals, like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, are followed closely by a nice, relaxing nap or a good night’s sleep that might even last until late the next day.
It seems that certain foods, like turkey or warm milk, are associated with sleeping better, deeper and longer. The truth is, there are plenty of myths out there about which foods can help you sleep; however, some of these supposed “sleepy foods” can actually have the opposite effect, and keep you up at night.
That being said, there is significant research on components in some foods that can help create mental and physical conditions that will help you sleep better by helping to calm your mind and reduce stress.
In this article, we will discuss five foods that will help promote healthy sleep, and also provide tips on meal timing and ideal sleeping conditions to make sure your body and mind are ready for rest at the end of the day. But first, let’s dispel some myths about foods that help you sleep.
3 Myths about Food and Sleep
Myth #1: It’s best to sleep after a big meal
After a big meal, you may feel sleepy, but it isn’t generally a good idea to go to sleep. You usually feel sleepy because your body is concentrating its energy on digestion, but lying down can make digestion slow down (due to reduced blood flow), and can cause heartburn and acid reflux, due to your body’s horizontal position and full stomach. Especially if you are one to take long naps, your body will soon be chock full of energy it will not use. Instead, that unused energy will be stored in your muscles, liver and then as fat.
Myth #2: Drinking alcohol will give you a better night’s sleep
While a glass of wine or whisky may make you feel sleepy, going to sleep with alcohol in your body can actually interrupt sleep by affecting protein channels in the brain that are responsible for sleep cycles. Alcohol can also make you sweat, wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and affect normal brain activity.
Myth #3: Turkey will make you sleepy
While turkey does have tryptophan, an important chemical in the sleep cycle, we don’t consume enough turkey for added tryptophan to be a factor. It is probably your full stomach that causes sleepiness – not the tryptophan.
5 Foods that help you Sleep
In addition to having tons of minerals and healthy fats, nuts are good sources of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps get our body ready for sleep. Additionally, nuts like almonds are high in magnesium, which is important for reducing stress and helping to achieve mental calm and relaxation.
2. Chamomile Tea
While chamomile isn’t technically a food, by some standards, it is great for deepening your sleep. Chamomile tea contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which helps to promote sleep, even in people with insomnia.
Kiwi just might be a fruit you want to integrate into your evening meals. While it isn’t generally seen as a dinner food, it might be one of the best sleep-promoting foods out there. The reason why isn’t exactly known, but it might be due to the serotonin content, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep cycles.
4. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice, like nuts, contains the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. A study showed that drinking just two 8 oz. glasses of tart cherry juice a day for two weeks increased sleep time by up to 1.5 hours, compared to a placebo group.
5. Salmon and other fatty fish
If you are someone who likes protein in your evening meal, try adding some salmon, mackerel or tuna to your dinner. These fish have healthy omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, both of which are important for serotonin production.
Scientists are becoming more and more interested in the role of diet in promoting sleep. Integrating these foods into your meals regularly could help you fight insomnia, sleep more deeply and feel more rested. Remember, for these foods to really make a difference in your sleep patterns, you have to stick with them for more than just a few days. Make them part of your regular diet and you will likely feel a big difference in your sleep quality in the long run.