Between stress, screen time and the emotions that come with adjusting to our new normal in 2021, good sleep is hard to come by for many of us these days. If you’re tired of (literally!) struggling to get a good nights sleep, let’s chat about how your diet and environment can play a part in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Good sleep though is the key to so many positive health benefits, the biggest one being FEELING GOOD and having energy for daily life, something we can never take for granted. That’s just one of many reasons to get serious about your sleep routine for life!
Sleep is one of your biggest tools when it comes to making healthy choices throughout the day too. Consider the cycle of waking up not well rested, not feeling like you have enough energy to exercise or even go for a walk, and not wanting to make healthy nutrition choices because your body is craving simple carbohydrates for energy since it’s sleep deprived.
In this case not getting good rest is hindering you from making other positive health choices.
Our bodies need that rest to perform so many different reparative and restorative processes that help us feel our best the next day. Let’s chat about what foods help promote sleep and how our environment and bedtime routine can be optimized for good sleep too.
First, I think it’s important to understand what has to happen in our body in order for sleep to occur. Let’s start by looking at the sleep hormones that help fall asleep and stay asleep.
Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by our bodies when it’s dark that regulates our internal clock (our circadian rhythm) and signals to the body to prepare for sleep. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production.
Serotonin – Serotonin is a hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts our entire body! It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other and helps with sleeping, eating an digestion.
Sleep Supporting foods
Sleep has a huge effect on how we feel throughout the day, and nutrition plays a role in how well you sleep. They are so connected! These foods contain melatonin and other vitamins and minerals that promote relaxation and send signals to the brain that it’s time to sleep.
- Fatty fish – Fatty fish like salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (the healthy fat we want more of in our diets) and vitamin D. Both omega-3’s and vitamin D have been shown to increase the production of serotonin, another impressive benefit of including seafood in your diet on a regular basis.
- Turkey – Turkey is a good source of tryptophan (hello post Thanksgiving nap!). Tryptophan is an essential amino acid (meaning we have to get it from our diet) that helps with the production of melatonin and serotonin.
- Rice – It’s been suggested that eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as white rice, at least 1 hour before bed may help improve sleep quality. One study compared the sleep habits of 1,848 people based on their intake of rice, bread, or noodles. Higher rice intake was associated with better sleep than bread or noodles, including longer sleep duration
- Oats – Oats are another source of melatonin. That along with the fact that they are higher in carbs has been reported making people sleepier.
- Dairy – Dairy products, such as milk, cottage cheese, and plain yogurt, are known sources of tryptophan. Milk has been shown to improve sleep in older adults, especially when paired with light exercise.
- Nuts – Nuts like walnuts and almonds are one of the best sources of melatonin. Additionally, walnuts contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that help with serotonin production and almonds are high in magnesium, which helps to improve sleep quality.
- Chamomile tea – Caffeine free tea is a great nighttime tea to help you relax and ready for bed. Specifically chamomile tea contain specific antioxidants that bind to receptors in the brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia. Passionflower tea has also been studied for it’s impact on sleep and there is evidence that in addition to promoting relaxation, it can help inhibit other brain chemicals that induce stress.
- Pumpkin seeds – Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium, a mineral that helps to promote calm and relax our muscles and nervous system. See my suggestion below for making a homemade trail mix with them!
- Tart cherry juice – Tart cherry juice is a good source of melatonin and studies have shown it promotes sleepiness, and can help prevent insomnia.
- Bananas – Banana peels contain tryptophan and the fruit itself is a modest source of magnesium. Both of these properties may help you get a good night’s sleep.
I also think it’s important to note that eating enough food during the day is a key to falling and staying asleep. Not enough calories throughout the day can majorly disrupt our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
This has definitely happened to me in the past and I usually opt for a spoonful of peanut butter, coconut oil or half a banana to help me get back to sleep.
sleep supporting snacks
Whip up one of these before bed to give your body a boost of the the nutrition it needs for good sleep!
- banana + 1 tbsp of peanut butter
- homemade trail mix made of pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds and dark chocolate chips + a cup of chamomile tea
- 1 serving of unsweetened oatmeal with banana slices
sleep disrupting drinks
One easy way to ensure you’re able to fall asleep at night is to cut off your caffeine consumption in the afternoon. Caffeine (and alcohol) are stimulants meaning they do they opposite of what we want to be happening in our bodies when we’re trying to prepare for sleep.
Caffeine is typically out of your system in 5 hours, but that could be longer depending on the person, amount and strength. If you’re sensitive cut it off a little earlier than you might think!
Which brings me to my next point, alcohol. Nightcaps and red wine are often label as sleep promoting beverages but truly, they’re not. In most cases they are major sleep disruptors hindering you from getting a good nights sleep. Consider doing a dry month to see how your sleep changes when
tips for a better nighttime routine
- ditch electronics at least an hour before bed. I know you’ve heard this one a million times but it’s true! Stop scrolling and start winding down your mind for bed by not looking at blue light. We literally need to send signals to our body and brain that it’s time for bed and that darn blue light really disrupts those ( I won’t tell you what time it is as I write this!). What also helps me it plugging my phone in on the other side of my bedroom and not right next to me on my nightstand.
- set the mood. Light a candle, turn down the lights, do your nighttime skincare routine, and put your pajamas to help give your mind and body another signal that sleep is happening soon.
- indulge in a little self-care. Reading, journaling, putting a mask on your face, sipping tea, and listening to music or doing a meditation are all great ways not only enhance your life on a variety of levels, but also to wind down and feel good doing it.
- consider a signature scent. It’s been scientifically proven that scents are strongly tied to our emotions and memories. Use that connection to your advantage by burning a candle or spraying a room spray with calming scents that signal sleepy relaxation to the brain. Sleep promoting scents include lavender, sage, bergamot and chamomile.
- get into bed when you’re actually ready for sleep. Make sure your body knows that when you lay in bed it means sleep by only getting into bed when you’re ready to fall asleep. I know for some people reading in bed is a good sleep segue, but if that’s part of your routine and your not able to fall asleep, consider only laying down when it’s time for sleep!
other sleep boosters to consider
If you feel like you’re doing all of the right things and still not getting enough restful sleep, it may be time to consider something to help you sleep. As with any supplements, I highly recommend doing research before taking it and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Here are a couple of products that help me and that I trust not only from an efficacy standpoint but also because of my own personal experience using them!
CBD: Researchers discovered that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in maintaining certain body functions, such as mood, appetite, sleep, and regulating circadian rhythms. CBD is a cannabinoid that attach to our cells in that system and interacts with receptors that promote sleep. CBD may also decrease anxiety and pain, which can both interfere with restful sleep.
I take and recommend Equilibria Women. All of their products are great! Use code “PUMPKIN” for 15% off of your first order.
mindbodygreen Magnesium+ supplement: Magnesium also known as the “calm mineral” helps to relax us and promotes restful sleep. I’ve recently started incorporating this magnesium supplement from mindbodygreen into my nighttime routine and have been waking up refreshed and well rested!
Click here and use code “PUMPKIN10” off of your first order. My code is valid on any of the mindbodygreen supplements!
Enjoyed reading about this topic? Let me know if this information is helpful in the comments! And if you have another nutrition topic that you’d like more info on, let me know! I’m always looking to explore other nutrition topics that help you have more food confidence, love your body more and just feel good on a daily basis!