Foods to Help Enhance Sleep

As most of us know, sleep affects every aspect of our health. But sometimes, getting the sleep we need can be easier said than done. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one-third of adults in the United States report not getting a healthy amount of sleep.

There are many natural nutrients, chemicals, hormones, and enzymes that work together to help regulate the sleep cycle and promote healthy sleep. This image lists a few of these naturally occurring compounds.

Many studies have been done on these compounds, and based on that research, here are a few foods that contain high enough levels to potentially improve your sleep cycle.

Almonds – Almonds contain several compounds to help sleep including melatonin, magnesium, and calcium. They are also high in good fats and low in sugar and saturated fat.

Warm Milk – Yes, this classic remedy for sleep has science-based roots! Milk contains four of the sleep compounds including calcium, vitamin D, melatonin and tryptophan!

KiwiThis little green powerhouse contains the following compounds: melatonin, folate, calcium, flavonoids, potassium and more! One study showed that people who ate 2 kiwis 1 hour before bedtime for 4 weeks took less time to fall asleep and had improved sleep quality.

Chamomile Tea – Another traditional remedy for sleep, researchers believe that a flavonoid compound in chamomile activates a process in our brain that stimulates sleep. Often, having a nightly ritual such as a cup of warm tea is enough to slow us down and prepare our bodies for rest.

Walnuts – These delicious nuts seem to appear on almost every list for healthy eating. Walnuts contain serotonin, melatonin, magnesium, potassium, folate, and calcium to help you get healthy sleep.

Cherries – Melatonin, tryptophan, potassium, serotonin, and antioxidants are all present in tart cherries. Cherries also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain.  

Fish – Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D help regulate serotonin. They are also typically rich in potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, vitamin B-12, folate and calcium.

Barley Grass Powder – This powder can be mixed into smoothies, salad dressings, soups or even scrambled eggs and contains calcium, tryptophan, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and GABA to help promote healthy sleep.

In addition to adding healthy foods to a balanced diet, there are also lifestyle choices that can help improve sleep including:

  • Avoid foods that increase the chance for heartburn
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Choose whole grains foods
  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Stay hydrated
  • Try not to eat 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Stay active

Adding these foods to a healthy diet and making healthy lifestyle choices may help you get the restful sleep you need. As always, it is wise to speak with your doctor before adjusting your diet or adding supplements. Here’s to restful, reparative and refreshing sleep!

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Written By: S. Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC. 

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