5 Foods That Help You Sleep
Shortchanging your sleep makes you feel pretty crummy (as you likely know!), but the impact is even worse than you may think: Poor sleep can weaken your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to viruses; it ups your risk of injury during intense workouts; and it can alter your appetite-regulating hormones, making you feel hungrier while simultaneously intensifying cravings. Sleep is no joke, yet according to the CDC, we’re a sleep deprived nation, with up to one-third of us failing to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Instead of going down the path of the sleep deprived, you can set yourself up for a better night’s rest by focusing on your menu. Here are five foods that help you sleep better, plus delicious ways to incorporate them into your routine.
Tart or sour Montmorency cherries are high in melatonin—a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. In one small study, participants experienced longer and more refreshing sleep after consuming a juice concentrate made from this fruit.
Tart cherries are harder to find than sweet ones, but you can find them frozen or dried (as well as in juice concentrates, like the one used in the sleep study) if you can’t find them fresh. Once you do find them, make a perfectly balanced vinaigrette, which pairs well with crunchy greens, such as romaine or little gems. The bright-flavored dressing with a colorful pop of chopped cherries would also be delicious with grilled chicken or fish.
Get the recipe: Sour Cherry Vinaigrette
An ounce of almonds supplies nearly 25% of the magnesium women need per day, and this mineral is sorely lacking in our diets. In fact, data indicates that almost 80% of us aren’t taking in sufficient magnesium. And research suggests that poor magnesium levels may be related to insomnia.
In order to fall asleep, your brain needs to chill out, and magnesium may help with the process. In a study in mice given magnesium, the mineral acted as a sort of “chill pill,” similar to what you’d expect from anti-anxiety drugs. It also turns out that the receptors magnesium binds to in the brain, known as the GABA receptors, are the same ones that prescription sleep pills act upon.
Because of their high magnesium levels, almonds are one of the top foods that help you sleep better. You can snack on almonds, mix them with yogurt or sprinkle them on salads. Or try a homemade granola. DIY granola is so worth the extra effort because it doesn’t skimp on pricier ingredients, like nuts, that are often in short supply in store-bought brands.
Grab the recipe: Buckwheat, Almond, and Coconut Granola
In a study that looked at the sleep differences among several diets—higher in protein, fat, or carbs compared to a standard control diet—participants experienced fewer sleep disturbances on the high-carb diet compared to any of the others. (That’s right, carb lovers!)
Oats are a healthy whole grain source of carbohydrates (as well as a good source of magnesium). Get your day off to the right start—and finish—by enjoying a bowl of overnight oats for breakfast. Bonus: This recipe pairs high-carb oats with almonds—another food that helps you sleep better.
Get the recipe: Overnight Oats with Toasted Almonds
If you’re like 95% of Americans, you’re probably falling short on fiber, and that can take a toll on your sleep patterns. One study found that a lower fiber diet was linked with less deep, restorative sleep, and that a higher fiber intake was associated with a longer period of that deep, quality form of sleep.
Most adults need between 25 grams and 35 grams of fiber per day (men are at the higher end of the spectrum) and a cup of raspberries provides a whopping 9 grams! This pretty smoothie bowl, which includes other sources of fiber, such as chia seeds and kiwi, will have you well on your way to upping your fiber intake and sleeping more soundly.
Get the recipe: Raspberry Smoothie Bowl
If you’re not already paying attention to your gut health, here’s another reason to start: Your microbiome, which is the collection of trillions of bugs in your gut, is connected to your sleep patterns. An increasing number of studies point to the fact that your microbiome is involved in regulating your mood, your stress levels, and your sleep rhythms. In fact, the species of bacteria in your gut likely adhere to a circadian rhythm much like we do!
One of the best ways to keep your microbiome healthy is to add to the collection of good bacteria with probiotic-rich foods. In one study, eating a yogurt snack three or four times a week was shown to increase beneficial gut bacteria as well as the diversity of bacterial strains—both of which indicate a healthy microbiome.
Of course, it’s easy to pick up a container of yogurt, but it’s actually not that difficult to make it yourself. Here’s a two-ingredient recipe that takes you through the process. Once you’re done, you could add nuts, fruit, a spoonful of granola, or some fresh herbs.
Get the recipe: Creamy Yogurt