Nutrients shown to improve quality and duration.
Staying healthy and fit is simple. You just have to eat well, exercise regularly, hydrate properly, stretch and roll after you work out, sleep enough every night…
Ok, maybe it is not so easy.
While the general concept of getting healthy and fit is simple — eat well and exercise, there is actually a lot more that goes into it. And one of the greatest contributors to how your body feels on a given day is how well you slept the night before.
I have to admit, I am guilty of cutting corners when it comes to sleep. Sometimes, I just want to get that extra hour of work done, or I want to unwind by watching my favorite television show at the end of the night. Or, sometimes, even when I do crawl into bed early, I lay awake for hours, just waiting for my mind to shut down and for my body to finally fall asleep.
I know many of you can probably relate to this feeling as well. All you want to do is drift into that peaceful slumber and wake up seven to eight hours later feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the day. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t cooperate and refuses to fall asleep.
Many times, on those nights when I am really having trouble getting to sleep, I’ll head downstairs and make a light snack. And it turns out, there are actually a few specific foods that have been shown to help you sleep better. If you find yourself struggling to get to sleep, try eating one of these healthy snacks.
For years, pistachios have been one of my favorite nuts. They taste amazing, have an incredible crunch, and are a healthy source of fat, which makes them a great snack to keep you satisfied between meals.
But, it turns out they can serve another purpose — to help you sleep more soundly. In fact, PIH Health states:
“These tasty green nuggets are loaded with vitamin B-6 and contain unsaturated fat. Both improve serotonin levels, an important regulator of the sleep-wake cycle.”
Try having a handful before bed to promote a better sleep cycle and a more peaceful night’s rest. You get the added bonus of a delicious flavor and crunchy texture.
2. Tart Cherries
I started testing out tart cherry juice in college as a collegiate runner because it has been shown to aid in workout recovery and decrease overall inflammation.
However, tart cherries have also been shown to impact your quality of sleep. According to The Sleep Foundation:
“Several studies have found sleep benefits for people who drink tart cherry juice. In one study, people who drank two one-cup servings of tart cherry juice per day were found to have more total sleep time and higher sleep efficiency.”
Therefore, you might want to try sipping on some tart cherry juice to jumpstart a better sleep schedule. Just check the label to make sure the juice you buy doesn’t have added sugar. Better yet, try to find tart cherries in their whole form. I have been able to find them frozen with no added sugar, so the freezer section might be a good place to check.
We have all been told to eat our vegetables so we can grow big and strong. Apparently, we should also be eating our leafy greens to sleep more optimally.
The American Sleep Association states that kale is:
“rich in calcium which is important in making those sleep hormones go to work.”
Thus, consuming a calcium rich snack just before bed can give your sleep hormones a boost, and promote a better night’s sleep overall.
One of my go-to snacks before bed has always been a banana with a little bit of peanut butter. And while it may just be a coincidence, I have noticed that when I have a piece of fruit with a bit of nut butter before I head upstairs, I tend to sleep better.
According to PIH Health:
“The potassium and magnesium in bananas naturally help muscles relax. The fruit also contains L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid that aids the body in producing serotonin, which helps you fall into deep REM sleep.”
If you enjoy eating bananas, try saving one for the end of the night. Consuming it before bed might just give your body everything it needs to sleep more soundly.
5. Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans are hands down my favorite type of bean. And it’s not only because I love the taste. They are also a key ingredient in one of my favorite foods — creamy, flavorful hummus.
If you feel the same way, you now have an excuse to eat more garbanzo beans. In fact:
“Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), the main ingredient in hummus, are rich in several nutrients that are important in regulating sleep cycles, including folate, vitamin B-6 and L-tryptophan. Spread some hummus on a piece of toast or some crackers before bed for a yummy, sleep-promoting snack.”
Before you head up for the night, consider having a snack that includes garbanzo beans in some form to boost your chances of getting optimal rest. You could eat garbanzo beans plain or make some fresh hummus and dip some carrots into it.
While each of these foods contains key vitamins and minerals that have been shown to regulate and improve sleep, the best way to consistently sleep better is by eating a healthy, balanced diet in general that includes many natural, minimally processed foods like the ones listed.
I have personally noticed that when I eat healthy, I tend to sleep better, and when I sleep better, I tend to eat healthier. Thus, when I really zone in on my diet, I end up feeling good day after day.
If you can get in the same routine, you’ll be more likely to sleep well every single night. As a result, you will be more productive each day, and ultimately live a healthier, happier life.