Senior Health

9/16/2022 | By Betty Gold, Ananda Eidelstein and Samantha Cassetty, M.S., RD,

Even if you understand the importance of sleep, sometimes a good night of zzz’s can be elusive. For many, prescription or over-the-counter medications aren’t the answer – whether you fear the morning-after effect or simply prefer to avoid drugs as much as possible. Instead, try these five foods for better sleep, which can help you achieve your restful nighttime goal – and you don’t even have to like the taste of tea!

Shortchanging your sleep makes you feel pretty crummy (as you likely know!), but the impact is even worse than you may think. Poor sleep can weaken your immune system (leaving you more susceptible to viruses), it ups your risk of injury during intense workouts, and it can alter your appetite-regulating hormones, making you feel hungrier while simultaneously intensifying cravings. Sleep deprivation is no joke, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we’re a sleep-deprived nation, with up to one-third of Americans failing to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Not getting enough sleep is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions—such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression—that threaten our nation’s health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to motor vehicle crashes and mistakes at work, which cause a lot of injury and disability each year. Getting enough sleep is not a luxury—it is something people need for good health. Sleep disorders can also increase a person’s risk of health problems.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Did you know you can set yourself up for a better night’s rest by adopting healthy pre-bedtime eating habits and consuming foods (and drinks) that promote and improve sleep? You may have already heard that drinking milk or chamomile tea can help you sleep, and both hold true: milk contains melatonin, the natural sleep-regulating hormone, while chamomile tea is packed with antioxidants that boost relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Related: Sleep reduces risk of dementia

But these two drinks aren’t your only options. There are several other foods for better sleep that have a similar positive effect on shut eye. Here are five more foods that can help you sleep better, according to science and nutritionists.

Foods for better sleep

woman waking up in bed happy, stretching her arms up. Photo by Fizkes, Dreamstime. Though important, a good night of zzz’s can be elusive. If you want to avoid medications, these five foods for better sleep can help.

1. Leafy greens

“Adding magnesium-rich foods to your plate can clearly help to improve sleep, especially in individuals who suffer from middle-of-the-night insomnia, where they wake up and are unable to fall back asleep,” confirms Erin Palinski-Wade, RD. “Research has found that a diet lacking in magnesium may make it more difficult to fall back asleep.” To make sure you’re meeting your magnesium needs each day, add leafy greens – in addition to legumes, nuts and seeds – to your plate along with a variety of whole grains.

2. Chickpeas

Digging into that hummus never sounded so good. This legume is a plant-based source of tryptophan, the amino acid also found in turkey that can increase the production of melatonin.

3. Oats

In a study that looked at the sleep differences among followers of several diets higher in protein, fat or carbs compared to a standard control diet, participants experienced fewer sleep disturbances on the high-carb diet compared to any of the others. (That’s right, carb lovers!) Oats are a healthy whole-grain source of carbohydrates, serving as one of the foods for better sleep, as well as a good source of magnesium.

Related: Products for better sleep – hype or helpful?

4. Yogurt

If you’re not already paying attention to your gut health, here’s another reason to start: Your microbiome, which is the collection of trillions of bugs in your gut, is connected to your sleep patterns. An increasing amount of research points to the fact that your microbiome is involved in regulating your sleep rhythms and quality, in addition to affecting things like mood and stress levels. In fact, the species of bacteria in your gut likely adhere to a circadian rhythm much like we do!

5. Citrus fruits

High stress levels can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep (as you’re likely well aware). “In addition to adding regular exercise to your day and practicing deep breathing to offset stress, eating foods rich in vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce circulating stress hormones in the body,” explains Palinski-Wade. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, clementines, lemons and limes. Strawberries and legumes are also packed with vitamin C.

These foods for better sleep have other healthful benefits. By adding them to your regular diet, you can sleep better, feel better, and be healthier.

© 2022 Meredith Corporation. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Betty Gold, Ananda Eidelstein and Samantha Cassetty, M.S., RD,

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