By: Dr Francesca Vazquez
Deep, restorative sleep is one of the most effective preventive mechanisms against developing both mental and physical health conditions. When we give our body the rest it needs, our minds are able to integrate the information acquired throughout the day, our bodies are able to recover from strenuous exercise, and our cells are able to regenerate, aiding in disease prevention, slowing down the aging process and improving our overall mental wellness. There are a number of lifestyle factors that can either aggravate or promote our sleep health, including exercise, stress, alcohol consumption, daylight exposure and diet.
If you've found yourself applying lifestyle tips such as waking at the same time each day, exercising as much as possible, limiting caffeine consumption and practicing yoga 2-3 times a week (all found to improve quality of sleep), yet still struggle with obtaining a consistent good night's sleep, it might be time to boost your diet!
There are certain foods that have a direct impact on sleep, targeting neurotransmitters found to promote rest and calm the nervous system. To improve your sleep quality (starting tonight!), try to consume more of these foods as the sun starts to set and its almost time to hit the sheets!
The hormone responsible for your internal clock (or circadian rhythm) is melatonin. As the sun sets, melatonin levels rise, causing you to feel drowsy and sleepy. However, with constant stimulation and exposure to electronics, this hormone may get disrupted. Cherries help increase melatonin levels naturally. So grab a handful before sleep for help dozing off quicker! They're especially effective for getting over jet lag!
Bananas are high in both potassium and magnesium, two vitamins/minerals known to assist in calming the nervous system. Magnesium helps relax the muscles, promoting a more restful sleep. If preparing a smoothie before bed, make sure to add bananas!
Oats are wholes grains, all of which aid in the production of both serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin helps improve our mind-body balance while also helping the body recover through deep sleep. By having warm oatmeal or adding 1/3 cup of oats to an afternoon smoothie, we will quickly notice a shift in our mental state and increase our chances of improving sleep.
Almonds are rich in B-Vitamins, found to assist in calming the nervous system and reducing stress. By having a handful of almonds (almond butter or almond milk works too!), we are able to tackle our sleep issues head on.
Chamomile, PassionFlower, Lavender, Valerian - these are all effective at promoting sleep. They have been found to help us drift off into deep sleep while assuring we wake up rested and restored. Plus, the act of warming up a cup of tea in itself is a calming ritual, sure to further promote its benefits. To further extend these tea benefits, add a splash of unsweetened almond milk.
Make sure to add spinach to your side salad the next time you prep your dinner. Spinach is high in magnesium, found to calm the nervous system, promote sleep and decompress tight muscles.
7. Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans are very high in both B vitamins and tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor for both serotonin and melatonin. Unlike many other tryptophan rich foods, the tryptophan in garbanzo beans is not attached to a protein (making the uptake more successful). Try to add garbanzo beans to your salad or snack on Hummus the next time those midnight cravings come up!
Photo Source: Pearls and Curls and Preppy Girls