Getting good sleep is incredibly important for your overall health, as you already know. It may reduce your risk of developing certain chronic illnesses, keep your brain and digestion healthy and boost your immune system (1, 2, 3). To reap the health benefits of sleep, it is generally recommended to get between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night (4). Despite its importance, many people struggle with sleeping enough. Insomnia, or the chronic inability to sleep, is often the cause (5).
There are many strategies you can use to promote good sleep, including making changes to your diet, as some foods have sleep-promoting properties (6). Here are the 7 best foods you can eat before bed to enhance your sleep quality.
1. TART CHERRY JUICE
Tart cherry juice has some impressive health benefits. First, it’s high in a few important nutrients. An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving contains 62% of your daily needs for vitamin A, 40% for vitamin C and 14% for manganese (7). Additionally, it is a rich source of antioxidants, including anthocyanins and flavonols. Antioxidants may protect your cells from harmful inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease (8, 9, 10). Tart cherry juice is also known to promote sleepiness, and it has even been studied for its role in relieving insomnia. For these reasons, drinking tart cherry juice before bed may improve your sleep quality (6, 11). The sleep-promoting effects of tart cherry juice are due to its high content of melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates your internal clock and signals your body to prepare for sleep (6, 11, 12). In two studies, adults with insomnia who drank 8 ounces (237 ml) of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks slept about an hour and a half longer and reported better sleep quality, compared to when they did not drink the juice (13, 14). Although these results are promising, more extensive research is necessary to confirm the role tart cherry juice has in improving sleep and preventing insomnia. Nevertheless, drinking some tart cherry juice before bed is certainly worth a try if you struggle with falling or staying asleep at night.
Kiwis are a low-calorie and very nutritious fruit. One medium kiwi contains only 50 calories and a significant amount of nutrients, including 117% of your daily needs for vitamin C and 38% for vitamin K. It also contains a decent amount of folate and potassium, as well as several trace minerals (19). Furthermore, eating kiwis may benefit your digestive health, reduce inflammation and lower your cholesterol. These effects are due to the high amount of fiber and carotenoid antioxidants that they provide (20, 21). Kiwis may also be one of the best foods to eat before bed, as they have been studied for their potential to improve sleep quality (22). In a four-week study, 24 adults consumed two kiwifruits one hour before going to bed each night. At the end of the study, participants fell asleep 42% more quickly than when they didn’t eat anything before bedtime. Additionally, their ability to sleep through the night without waking improved by 5%, while their total sleep time increased by 13% (23). The sleep-promoting effects of kiwis are thought to be due to their content of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle (24, 25, 26, 27). It has also been suggested that the antioxidants in kiwis, such as vitamin C and carotenoids, may be partly responsible for their sleep-promoting effects. This is thought to be due to their role in reducing inflammation (24, 25, 28). More scientific evidence is needed to determine the effects that kiwis may have in improving sleep. Nevertheless, eating 1–2 medium kiwis before bed may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Almonds are a type of tree nut with many health benefits. They are an excellent source of many nutrients, as one ounce contains 14% of your daily needs for phosphorus, 32% for manganese and 17% for riboflavin (29). Also, eating almonds regularly has been associated with lower risks of a few chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This is attributed to their content of healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber and antioxidants (30, 31). It has been claimed that almonds may also help boost sleep quality. This is because almonds, along with several other types of nuts, are a source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin (32). Almonds are also an excellent source of magnesium, providing 19% of your daily needs in only 1 ounce. Consuming adequate amounts of magnesium may help improve sleep quality, especially for those who have insomnia (6, 33, 34). Magnesium’s role in promoting sleep is thought to be due to its ability to reduce inflammation. Additionally, it may help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep (6, 35). Yet despite this, research on almonds and sleep is sparse. One study examined the effects of feeding rats 400 mg of almond extract. It found that the rats slept longer and more deeply than they did without consuming almond extract (36). The potential sleep-promoting effects of almonds are promising, but more extensive human studies are needed. If you want to eat almonds before bed to determine if they impact your sleep quality, a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving, or about a handful, should be adequate.
4. CHAMOMILE TEA
Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea that may offer a variety of health benefits. It is well known for its content of flavones, a type of antioxidant that reduces inflammation that often leads to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease (37, 38, 39, 40). There is also some evidence that drinking chamomile tea may boost your immune system, reduce anxiety and depression and improve skin health. In addition, chamomile tea has some unique properties that may improve sleep quality (37). Specifically, chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia (37, 41). One study in 34 adults found those who consumed 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days fell asleep 15 minutes faster and experienced less nighttime wakening, compared to those who did not consume the extract (42). Another study found that women who drank chamomile tea for two weeks reported improved sleep quality, compared to non-tea drinkers. Those who drank chamomile tea also had fewer symptoms of depression, which is commonly associated with sleep problems (43). Drinking chamomile tea before going to bed is certainly worth trying if you want to improve the quality of your sleep.
Walnuts are a popular type of tree nut. They are abundant in many nutrients, providing over 19 vitamins and minerals, in addition to 2 grams of fiber, in a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving. Walnuts are particularly rich in magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese (53). Additionally, walnuts are a great source of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid. They also provide 4 grams of protein per ounce, which may be beneficial for reducing appetite (53, 54, 55). Walnuts may also boost heart health. They have been studied for their ability to reduce high cholesterol levels, which are a major risk factor for heart disease (31). What’s more, eating walnuts has been claimed to improve sleep quality, as they are one of the best food sources of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin (31, 56, 57). The fatty acid makeup of walnuts may also contribute to better sleep. They provide ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that’s converted to DHA in the body. DHA may increase production of serotonin, a sleep-enhancing brain chemical (51, 58, 59). Unfortunately, the claims about walnuts improving sleep are not supported by much evidence. In fact, there have not been any studies that focus specifically on walnut’s role in promoting sleep. Regardless, if you struggle with sleep, eating some walnuts before bed may help. About a handful of walnuts is an adequate portion.
6. PASSIONFLOWER TEA INFUSION
Passionflower tea is another herbal tea infusion that has been used traditionally for many years to treat a number of health ailments. It is a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants, which are known for their role in reducing inflammation, boosting immune health and reducing heart disease risk (60, 61). Additionally, passionflower tea has been studied for its potential to reduce anxiety. This is attributed to its content of apigenin, an antioxidant that produces a calming effect by binding to certain receptors in your brain (61). There is also some evidence that drinking passionflower tea increases the production of GABA, a brain chemical that works to inhibit other brain chemicals that induce stress, such as glutamate (62). The calming properties of passionflower tea may promote sleepiness, so it may be beneficial to drink it before going to bed. In a seven-day study, 41 adults drank a cup of passionflower tea before bed. They rated their sleep quality significantly better when they drank the tea, compared to when they did not drink the tea (63). More research is needed to determine the ability of passionflower tea to promote sleep, but it is certainly worth trying if you want to improve your sleep quality.
7. WHITE RICE
White rice is a grain that is widely consumed as a staple food in many countries. The major difference between white and brown rice is that white rice has had its bran and germ removed, which makes it lower in fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. Nevertheless, white rice still contains a decent amount of a few vitamins and minerals. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of white rice provides 14% of your daily needs for folate, 11% for thiamin and 24% for manganese (64). Also, white rice is high in carbs, providing 28 grams in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. Its carb content and lack of fiber contribute to its high glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly a food increases your blood sugar (65, 66). It has been suggested that eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as white rice, a few hours before bed may help improve sleep quality. This is likely because carbohydrates contain the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan (11, 67). Not only does tryptophan induce sleepiness on its own, but it also helps increase levels of serotonin in the brain, which is important for sleep regulation (6). In one study, the sleep habits of 1,848 people were compared based on their intake of white rice, bread or noodles. Higher rice intake was associated with better sleep, including longer sleep duration (68). It has also been reported that white rice may be most effective at improving sleep if it is consumed at least one hour before bedtime (11). Despite the potential role that eating white rice may have in promoting sleep, it is best consumed in moderation due to its lack of fiber and nutrients.
OTHER FOODS THAT MAY PROMOTE SLEEP
Several other foods have sleep-promoting properties, but they have not been studied specifically for their effects on sleep.
- Milk: Another known source of tryptophan, milk has been shown to improve sleep in the elderly, especially when taken along with melatonin and paired with exercise (17, 69, 70).
- Bananas: Bananas contain tryptophan and are a good source of magnesium. Both of these properties may help you get a good night’s sleep (17, 71).
- Oatmeal: Similar to rice, oatmeal is high in carbs and has been reported to induce drowsiness when consumed before bed. Additionally, oats are a known source of melatonin (32).
- Cottage cheese: Contains a significant amount of casein, which is a milk protein that is well known to sustain overnight muscle repair and growth when consumed before bed (72, 73).
- Lettuce: Lettuce is a source of lactucarium, which is a fluid that has been claimed to have sedative properties that influence sleep (6, 74).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Getting enough sleep is very important for your health. Fortunately, several foods may help, thanks to their content of sleep-regulating hormones and brain chemicals, including melatonin and serotonin. Additionally, some foods contain high amounts of specific antioxidants and nutrients, such as magnesium, that are known to enhance sleep by helping you fall asleep faster or stay asleep longer. To reap the benefits of sleep-enhancing foods, it may be best to consume them 2–3 hours before bed. This is because eating immediately before going to sleep may cause digestive issues, such as acid reflux. Overall, more research is necessary to conclude the specific role that foods have in promoting sleep, but their known effects are very promising.
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