5 Sleep-Inducing Foods You Should Try

Our overall wellness depends on the healthy choices we make each day, but also the amount of sleep we get each night.

Despite this well-known health fact, the CDC says many of us (1 in 3) still struggle to get the recommended 8-9 hours (1). Thanks to our overactive minds and the hustle to check everything off our to-do list, a full night’s rest is often out of reach.

Are you one of the many struggling to sleep? Read on to learn what might be standing between you and a full night’s rest, plus five sleep-inducing foods you can try!

Why Can’t I Sleep?

According to Consumer Reports, Americans spent roughly $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies in 2015, and that number is expected to reach $52 billion by 2020 (2). 

Poor sleep and insomnia is a vicious cycle, as there are a number of potential causes and contributors that are difficult to avoid in our busy lives. This includes chronic stress, anxiety, depression, long work hours, menopause, and migraines, to name a few. 

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says there are also certain lifestyle factors that can make insomnia worse (3). Many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee to offset a lack of sleep, but caffeine and other stimulants can actually worsen the quality of sleep, thus perpetuating restless nights. Not getting enough exercise OR exercising too close to bedtime may also leave you struggling to get some shut-eye.

Additionally, you should keep an eye on your sleep schedule because irregular routines also affect sleep quality (4). Many of us tend to leverage our free time on the weekends to “catch up” on lost Zzs, however, one study suggests that a few extra hours can’t remedy the effects of chronic sleep loss during the workweek (5).

When reaching for a sleep supplement like melatonin or L-theanine, be sure it’s from a reputable brand you trust. If you’d rather not to take a supplement, luckily there are some ways to naturally induce sleep via your diet!

5 Sleep-Inducing Foods

Cottage Cheese

“A half cup of cottage cheese can be beneficial to a good night of sleep,” says Traci D. Mitchell, health and nutrition consultant and author of The Belly Burn Plan. “It contains casein, a very slow-digesting protein made up of all the amino acids you need to help your body rest and digest while you sleep.

“Cottage cheese can also help support muscle repair,” Mitchell continues. “So if you had a hard workout earlier in the day, cottage cheese will not only help you catch a few Zzs, but it will also help repair muscles that broke down.”

Turkey

The widely recognized culprit behind post-Thanksgiving dinner naps, turkey’s tryptophan content can help promote better sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid, and along with serotonin, actually aids in the synthesis of melatonin—the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep cycles and circadian rhythms (6). 

While tryptophan can make us drowsy, Mitchell says, “it’s actually the sheer volume of food (including a lot of sugar) that makes us feel sluggish after Thanksgiving dinner. 

“When we eat in excess (whether at a holiday dinner or an indulgent work lunch), oxygen-rich blood is shunted to our gut to digest food,” Mitchell adds. “When all that blood is in our stomach, it’s not as available to other parts of our body, which can make us tired quickly.” Good to know for those of us who experience the dreaded mid-afternoon crash.

Oatmeal

According to Mitchell, “a little bit of oatmeal can help to stimulate serotonin before bedtime, helping promote relaxation.” 

Carbs in general are known to cause drowsiness because they help make tryptophan more available to the brain. Oatmeal is also a natural source of melatonin, making it a one-two punch on the sleep scale (7, 8).

“You don’t want to go overboard with this complex carbohydrate, because eating too much can interfere with insulin,” warns Mitchell. “But a little bit of oatmeal with a teaspoon of coconut oil or butter can help slow digestion without spiking blood sugar levels.”

Ginger

Pouring yourself a cup of herbal tea can be a calming ritual on its own, but opting for ginger tea can have extra sleep perks.

“Ginger contains a significant amount of the hormone melatonin, which is something our body naturally increases in greater amounts as nighttime rolls around,” says Mitchell. “Steep a cup of ginger tea shortly before bed to relax and sleep more soundly” (9).

Avocado

Magnesium is a mineral many people seem to be lacking. There are a few signs you might be low on magnesium, and struggling to sleep can be one of them. Studies have shown that low magnesium levels can inhibit your body’s ability to regulate sleep and may cause you to wake up unexpectedly during the night (10).

A solution? Consume a magnesium-rich food like avocado! “Avocados contain an adequate amount of magnesium, which is a mineral that has been linked to better sleep,” says Lauren Manaker, dietitian and founder of Nutrition Now Counseling. “They also provide healthy fats and natural fiber, which may help stabilize blood sugars through the night and keep you satisfied.”

A Turmeric Latte!

According to Lisa Richards, nutritionist and creator of the Candida Diet, whipping up a turmeric latte before bed might help you sleep better. “A turmeric latte (often known as golden milk) can help you feel more relaxed and ready for bed.”

“The turmeric reduces inflammation and eases your digestive system, which can help promote better sleep,” says Richards. “Animal studies have shown that curcumin, the most important compound in turmeric, can reduce stress and anxiety.” (11)

Richards suggests making it with almond milk for added sleep benefits. “Almond milk contains tryptophan, found naturally in almonds,” she says. “It’s a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety and improves mood.” 

Additionally, “almond milk contains magnesium, a vitally important nutrient that increases your GABA levels and allows you to enter a more peaceful, rested state.”

Bedtime Golden Milk Recipe

Catch some much-needed Zzs with this calming nightcap! Recipe makes one cup.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup of almond milk 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger (or finely chopped ginger) 
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • Stevia to taste 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat the almond milk gently on the stove. Add the spices and stevia, then stir well. If you use a blender, you will usually get more flavor and a smoother consistency.

 

What are some of your tricks for a better night’s sleep? Let us know in the comments!

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