Want To Sleep Better? These 7 Foods May Help, Dietitian-Approved 

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Getting enough sleep (more than seven hours) helps us feel energized and ready for the next day, but beyond that, sleep is essential for a variety of health outcomes. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to get to sleep and stay asleep thanks to things like anxiety, blue light exposure, and caffeine (to name a few!). Karman Meyer, R.D., LDN, believes that our sleep can be improved by what we put in our bodies and lets us in on the best foods for better zzz's in her new book Eat to Sleep. Here are seven delicious foods that may just do the trick.

These foods work in a variety of ways to benefit your body and improve the quality of sleep you get at night. A few of them are natural sources of melatonin, some provide the important amino acid to help your body produce melatonin, and others provide the essential nutrients needed to help your body relax as you drift off to dreamland. 

Almonds

Almonds naturally contain the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. This tree nut also provides the body with magnesium, which may help improve sleep quality. One ounce of almonds contains 76 milligrams of magnesium and 75 milligrams of calcium to help bring on the zzz's. While there is currently limited research specifically about almonds and the impact they have on sleep, a study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines in 2016 found that rats fed 400 milligrams of almond extract slept longer and more deeply than a group that did not consume almond extract.

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Avocados

Avocado has made this list for its healthy fat content and the magnesium it contains. A serving of raw California avocado provides about 15 milligrams of magnesium, or 4 percent of the recommended daily value. Magnesium is linked to decreased stress levels and fewer inflammatory issues, which can help with getting a quality night of sleep. Adequate magnesium levels can also possibly reduce occurrence of migraines and extreme cramping during menstruation. The high amount of monounsaturated fat and fiber in avocados can help you feel more satisfied at a meal or snack time, meaning that you're less likely to wake up feeling hungry in the middle of the night or overeat at any particular meal during the day. For those experiencing a roller coaster of blood sugar levels, healthy fats like those found in avocado can help to stabilize them. A dip in blood sugar levels in the middle of the night can cause restless sleep, night sweats, and headaches, and this can occur in individuals with or without diabetes.

Cauliflower

Made up of 92 percent water, cauliflower may seem like an unassuming vegetable to choose for its nutrition value, but don't let it get by you! This cruciferous vegetable offers several nutritional benefits and has made its way on to this list of sleep-promoting foods primarily for its ability to contribute to hydration.

An additional sleep benefit of cauliflower is the potassium it contains. While it's not necessarily considered an "excellent" or even "good" source of potassium according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, it still contributes to the daily intake goal of 4,700 milligrams of potassium. In a 1-cup portion of chopped raw cauliflower, you'll receive 320 milligrams of potassium, nearly 7% of the dietary reference intake. Potassium is important for blood flow, muscle contraction, and easing muscle cramps.

Chickpeas

A member of the legume family, chickpeas are rich in tryptophan and contain vitamin B6 and magnesium, which assist you in getting a restful night of sleep. Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a part of more than 150 enzyme reactions in the body, including the processing of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that you consume and proper functioning of the nervous and immune systems. Vitamin B6 is essential for the production of serotonin, that neurotransmitter that makes us happy. When there is a deficiency of vitamin B6, you may experience sadness or feelings of depression, anxiety, and increased feelings of pain, all of which can disrupt healthy sleep cycles. The other important role of this B vitamin? It helps make the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Including foods with vitamin B6 throughout the day provides your body with the right tools it needs to sleep well at night! A 1-cup serving of chickpeas provides 1.1 milligrams of vitamin B6.

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Dates

This dried fruit may not be the prettiest looking, but it offers plenty of health benefits! When it comes to sleep, dates provide the body with vitamin B6, the nutrient important for protein metabolism and helping convert tryptophan into serotonin.

Dates contain potassium as well, with a serving of two dates providing about 8% of the dietary reference intake for adult males and females ages 19 to 50 years old. Remember that potassium plays a role in easing muscle contractions, and it also helps regulate the heartbeat and controls fluid balances, all of which can be important for getting a night of peaceful sleep.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit contains about 88% water, contributing significantly to your daily hydration needs, and adequate hydration during the day can affect the quality of your sleep. In addition, grapefruit is a good source of potassium. Potassium, a mineral your body requires for several functions, has been shown to have beneficial effects in both the quality of sleep and in less waking up during the night. According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most Americans are not meeting daily potassium recommendations. But with 1 cup of grapefruit sections, you can get 310 milligrams of potassium. Potassium also plays a role in reducing muscle cramping, a problem that could wake you from sleep as well.

Grapefruit is also a source of magnesium and calcium, providing about 21 milligrams and 51 milligrams, respectively, in a 1-cup portion of grapefruit sections. Both of these minerals play a part in good sleep. If you'll recall, magnesium is involved in the transportation of calcium throughout the body, and calcium has a role in melatonin production. Adequate magnesium levels are also linked to improved mental health.

Tart cherries

This summer stone fruit naturally contains melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body's internal clock. Tart cherries are one of the few foods that contain melatonin, and researchers believe that it's the combination of melatonin and procyanidins and anthocyanins—two types of polyphenols—in cherries that helps improve sleep. The Montmorency variety of cherries have a sweet-sour taste and have been studied in depth for their health benefits.

In a 2018 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, Montmorency tart cherry juice was found to help prolong sleep by 84 minutes in a group of eight study participants ages 50 and older who reported suffering from insomnia. The individuals in the group who drank Montmorency cherry juice consumed 8 fluid ounces of juice twice each day, once in the morning and one to two hours before bedtime, for 14 days.

While we recommend many of these foods as a bedtime snack, it's best not to go to bed on a full stomach. Try to eat them at least an hour or two before hitting the sack, and enjoy a deep rest. 

Based on excerpts from Eat to Sleep by Karman Meyer, R.D., LDN, with the permission of Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2019.

And are you ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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