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Insomnia: Foods to Add Into Your Life

This month I have dedicated to insomnia and offering some great tips to help you get better and more quality sleep. This week I want to offer up some specific foods that you can add to your regime to help promote better sleep. Nutrition is linked to quality sleep, so take a moment and look at what you are fueling your body with and how it could be affecting your quality of sleep.

I think we have all experienced how that cup of coffee or that turkey sandwich can affect your energy and alertness. Diet and sleep are complex which means there is not one single food that will guarantee better sleep; however, there are some foods and drinks that will make it easier to fall asleep and some that can help stay asleep.

Nutritionists, researchers and sleep experts have conducted numerous studies trying to discover the best foods for sleep. More research is needed, but they have come far in what they know will help your central nervous system calm down to get ready for sleep.

Dietary choices will affect your energy and sleepiness as well as your cardiovascular health, blood sugar levels and weight. Always consult with a doctor or dietician before making any significant changes as some foods may counter act with medications you may take. Here are some foods to look at to help increase your sleep.

Tart Cherries or Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherries happen to have above-average concentrations of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm. Many adults are low in their melatonin levels, so adding in some tart cherry juice an hour before bedtime could help increase the levels to help the body and brain slow down and prepare for sleep. Several studies have found that those who drank two one-cup servings of tart cherry juice each day increased their total sleep time and had higher sleep efficiency. Tart cherries have an antioxidant effect that is beneficial to quality sleep.


This small oval-shaped fruit from New Zealand possess vitamins C and E as well as potassium and folate. Both of which have shown to boost sleeping through the night. Studies showed that those who ate two kiwis one hour before bedtime fell asleep faster, had better quality sleep and ended up sleeping more than those who didn’t have the kiwi. Kiwi also has high antioxidant properties and can help increase folate deficiencies as well as have high concentrations of serotonin, the hormone that helps promote sleep.

Fatty Fish

Research studies have shown that those who ate salmon three times per week showed better overall sleep patterns. Fatty fish provides healthy doses of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Both of those are needed in the body’s regulation of serotonin.

Milk and Golden Milk or anything Dairy

Calcium in milk, yogurt or cheese processes the hormones tryptophan and melatonin that will help you sleep. Milk and even malted milk a combination of milk and formulated powder that contains wheat flour, malted wheat and malted barley with sugar and vitamins can reduce sleep interruptions in those without Celiac. Milk has high levels of vitamins B and D as well as melatonin and some milk products are melatonin enriched. Combining milk with turmeric is another great way to help with inflammation, which can cause sleep disruptions too. A golden milk before bedtime can help you fall asleep and stay asleep as it keeps inflammation low throughout the night.


Nuts have essential minerals like magnesium and zinc which are essential for a range of bodily processes. The combination of melatonin, magnesium and zinc have been shown to help older adults with insomnia. Snack on almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews at night to help promote sleep. Watch your serving size as they are high in calories.

Carbohydrates and Protein

Some studies have shown that carbohydrate intake and sleep are connected, but specific carbohydrates are key. Rice was shown to increase sleep when it was combined with some protein like turkey. Turkey is high in levels of tryptophan, a sleep-promoting amino acid. That Thanksgiving day post meal nap is kicked into gear with the help of tryptophan.

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Green, leafy vegetable, edamame, beans, pumpkin seeds and avocados are all rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps muscles relax and can help induce a sleepy state. Many adults are low in magnesium and can cause restless leg syndrome and muscle spasms. Including these foods in your daily diet will help regulate your sleep cycle.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile herb can reduce anxiety and make your mind and body prepare for sleep. A study in 2016 showed that new mothers who drank chamomile tea every day for two weeks showed better sleep scores with fewer symptoms of depression compared to women who didn’t drink the tea. Another study showed patients who took a chamomile supplement slept significantly better than those who took the placebo.

Nutritionists highly recommend eating a balanced and nutrient dense diet made up mostly of vegetables and fruits. Many recommend the Mediterranean Diet to help with sleep as well as heart health but allows you to enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and smart fats. They also recommend limiting the following from your diet as they can increase poor sleep:

· Limit or moderate alcohol consumption as it can throw off your sleep cycle as your liver is detoxing around 2:30-3:30AM and could wake you up in the middle of the night.

· Limit caffeine intake to before 1pm every day. The caffeine can stay in your system up to six hours after consumption, so if you are reaching for an iced coffee in the afternoon, it could be disrupting your sleep patterns at night. If you need a boost of energy in the afternoon, opt for an apple or a matcha green tea instead.

· Try not to eat too close to your bedtime. Your body is still digesting food and it will make it very difficult to fall asleep. Be careful with spicy or fatty foods at night as they can cause acid reflux and disrupt your sleep. Make your big meal of the day at noon.

Try changing up your food choices this next month and see how much better you sleep. Discover which foods work best for you and include them more often into your diet.

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