A good night’s sleep can change everything. Not only does being well-rested give your brain time to recharge, but it also helps your immune system fight illness, reduces stress, and lowers your risk for serious health problems, like heart disease and diabetes.
But if you’re spending more time counting sheep than actually catching Z’s, you’re not alone. More than one in three adults in America aren’t getting the recommended seven hours of snoozing regularly, per a study by the CDC.
There is hope for finally getting the ever-elusive shut-eye, though. Things like creating a sleep routine or making sure your pillow is up to par can help bring on sweet dreams. Another thing that can help you catch them Z’s more efficiently: Changing your diet.
“Pairing the right types of foods in the evening can promote and improve the way you sleep,” says Rachel Brief, a registered dietitian at Culina Health. “In general, you want to look for foods that have protein, fiber, and some healthy fat for adequate blood sugar management before bed.”
For snooze support, you also want to seek out foods with the amino acid called tryptophan. (If you’ve ever felt the urge to take a nap after Thanksgiving dinner, you can thank tryptophan, since turkey is rich in it.) The amino acid helps the body produce serotonin, one of the hormones which help regulate the sleep cycle.
Another nutrient you should probably add to your diet is vitamin B6. It also supports the production of serotonin and melatonin, which is also necessary for a restful night’s sleep. Melatonin basically tells your body when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up by distinguishing between night and day—or in more fancy language, it regulates your body’s circadian rhythm.
But if you’re looking at this as an excuse to up your late-night snack game, sorry to disappoint. Brief recommends consuming these foods in a lighter meal about two to three hours before lights out so that your body has enough time to process and digest it. “Eating and then immediately laying down can actually interfere with getting a good night’s sleep and may trigger digestive issues such as acid reflux,” she says.
Ready to hit the hay (and the grocery store)? Check out this list of the 10 best foods to help you sleep and wake up on the right side of the bed.
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