Sleep is one of the more intriguing mysteries of the human species. We all need it, we all do it, yet WHY we do it, is still baffling top sleep specialists to this day. Why do we go into a near unconscious state, for roughly one-third of our lives? There must be an increase in cognitive prowess whether it be restorative or, enrichment. Whether it allows our neurons to repair themselves in a deep slumber, or new connections, and neural pathways assemble in new intricate patterns, allowing for greater thought.
Though why we sleep is still elusive, there are groundbreaking scientists in the field of sleep study. Particularly a man named Matthew Walker a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and acclaimed author of the New York times best seller book, “Why we sleep“. The New York times has this to say: “A thoughtful tour through the still dimly understood state of being asleep … Why We Sleep is a book on a mission.
Walker is in love with sleep and wants us to fall in love with sleep, too. And it is urgent. He makes the argument, persuasively, that we are in the midst of a ‘silent sleep loss epidemic’ that poses ‘the greatest public health challenge we face in the 21st century’ … Why We Sleep mounts a persuasive, exuberant case for addressing our societal sleep deficit and for the virtues of sleep itself. It is recommended for night-table reading in the most pragmatic sense.”
—New York Times Book Review
Some absolutely astonishing facts about sleep
- Routinely sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night increases your risk of cancer by 50%.
- Every species ever studied, preceding the emergence of vertebrates – sleep. Some species can sleep with only half their brain (Dolphins & Sharks for example).
- Sleep is an incredibly risky thing for an animal to do, because you are completely vulnerable to predators when you sleep. However, sleep is SO important that it was preserved by evolution.
- After even one night of less than 5 hours of sleep, natural killer cells (which kill cancer cells that appear in your body EVERY DAY) drop by 70%. In just one night!
- Famous advocates of sleeping very little (4-6 hours a night) such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, unfortunately, developed Alzheimer’s and Dementia respectively.
So what are the best foods for sleep?
To understand what the best foods for sleep are, we have to take a look at the chemicals found in the foods we eat that help us release serotonin, and melatonin. The two chemicals responsible for restful sleep. Some chemicals such as tryptophan convert into these chemicals, in our systems and have essentially the same effect. So here are the best foods to help us get the most natural sleep, as was intended by nature.
New research suggests that kiwi, the fruit native to New Zealand can have great benefits on sleep for adults in terms of sleep patterns, sleep onset (how early you fall asleep), the duration (length) of sleep, and quality (beneficial restorative sleep). Kiwi is an antioxidant, and contains a large amount of serotonin, which is a chemical that brings about the onset of sleep. Too much or too little of the chemical, can interfere with sleep habits. So eat this fruit in moderation a few hours before bed, to help you get to sleep more quickly. Definitely on our list of best foods for sleep.
Helpful product: Check out this the Kiwi-Klenz from Amazon that will not only act as a kiwi substitute, but provides your body with its needed vitamins and minerals.
Bananas are not only delicious, good for the bones, and filled with potassium, but also contains the chemicals magnesium – (a natural muscle relaxant) and L-tryptophan, which in turn, gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP is converted to serotonin and melatonin. As you can see the pattern, foods that contain L-tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin, are great for sleep! However, do not exceed more than one banana before the end of the night. Bananas also contain sucrose, a natural sugar found in almost all fruits, and can therefore inhibit sleep immediately after consumption.
Helpful product: Try banana bites from Amazon if you’re on the move a lot and want to sneak in your banana serving!
Almonds are another one of those foods for sleep, that contain a whole plethora of vitamins and amino acids that help us fall asleep and stay asleep. In this case its niacin which help regulates stress, protein, which helps maintain blood sugar spiking and keeps you asleep longer, and the almighty L-Tryptophan which converts into seratonin which in turn converts into melatonin to help us sleep.
Helpful product: Try blue diamond almonds from Amazon to get your nutrients from this amazing superfood.
Cherries contain a large helping of melatonin, which acts as sort of the starting pistol in the beginning of a race – signaling your brain that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. According to a study by the America Journal of Therapeutics, tart cherry juice can extend the duration of sleep in people over the age of 50 that suffer from insomnia by an average of 84 minutes! Now that’s something to go to bed over! Tart cherries are one of our top recommended foods for sleep.
Helpful product: Try cheribundi tart cherry juice in packs of 12. (contains less than 10% apple juice as a natural sweetener). At a little over a dollar a bottle, this is a great way to induce sleep naturally.
According to many nutritionists around the world, drinking a warm glass of milk before bedtime is great at inducing restful sleep. If you want to add some additional benefits try drinking a cup of warm milk with a little ginger ,cardamom and turmeric. According to healthambition.com, the mix will help with heart health, boosts brain repair, aids digestion, and can help manage diabetes! Drinking this milky concoction at bedtime helps to induce sound, restful, and relaxing sleep along with a plethora of added benefits!
6. Jasmine Rice
According to a study made by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they found that high-glycemic-index(sweet potatoes, jasmine rice) foods will allow you to fall asleep at a much faster speed than lower-glycemic-index(mahatma rice, regular potatoes) foods. This particular study was based on people who reported to already be healthy sleepers and who were given big meals of vegetables and tomato sauce over rice. The variable in the study was one group at high-glycemic-index jasmine rice, while the other group ate lower-glycemic-index long-grain rice. The group that was provided the jasmine rice, fell asleep on average much faster than the group given the lower glycemic long grain rice. Is is therefore safe to say (dependant on various other variables) that the 1st group provided significantly more insulin, and increased the amount of tryptophan – the chemical that converts to melatonin in our systems – reached the groups brain.
Helpful product: At only 10.99 per each 5 lbs, this highly reviewed Jasmine rice straight from India is a great way to get your servings of rice in.
One of honey’s unknown benefits besides being shown to prevent cancer, and heart disease. Being an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and the regulation of blood sugar means that honey, lowers insulin levels, allowing L-Tryptophan to enter the brain quickly, speeding up the onset of sleep!
Helpful Product: Unheated, uncooked, unpasteurized, and unaltered natural raw honey.
8. Valerian root
Valerian is an herb native to Europe and Asia, that was later introduced to North America and now grows here in abundance. It is most commonly used to treat sleep disorders due to the sedative property it has on the nervous system, essentially onsetting our pineal gland to secrete melatonin. It’s no wonder there are tons of sleep aid teas out there with the main ingredient usually being melatonin or Valerian root.
Helpful Product: Try this organic Valerian root that helps small growers and communites through their sustainable sourcing program called “Well Earth”.
9. Roman Chamomile
Roman chamomile has been around for centuries, and was used as an anti inflammatory in ancient times. In fact it is one of the most ancient of medicines, and has been used to treat many ailments including: inflammation, menstrual disorders, muscle spasms, wounds, ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, hemmorhoids, and of course, insomnia. Roman chamomile is widely considered a mild tranquilizer and sleep inducer. Clinical trials are notable for patients who have reported to have immediately fallen into a deep sleep, lasting for 90 minutes after drinking chamomile tea. Give this a try and see if its right for you. A top 5 recommended ingredient in our list of best foods for sleep.
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10. Sweet potato
Not only do sweet potatoes contain sleep inducing complex carbohydrates, but are also a fantastic source of potassium, a mild muscle relaxant! Foods containing complex carbohydrates stimulate the release of seratonin, which help induce the onset of sleep.
Helpful Product: Don’t like the consistency of sweet potatoes? Try adding some sweet potatoe puree to a mixture of some of our previous foods for a super sleep smoothie.
Cheese is a dairy product and contains the sleep inducing ingredient Tryptophan, which like milk, produces the chemicals 5-HTP, and melatonin in your body. According to the Huffington post, a study done in 2005 on British patients found that the majority of the patients reported positive results, when consuming cheese just before sleep. The verdict? Cheese promotes good sleep!
Helpful Product: Try mooncheese for snacking, also featured on our top 5 ketogenic products of 2018.
There are a number of chemicals that help the body induce sleep, and vitamin B6 is one of those chemicals. Vitamin B6 is found in abundance in fish, along with protein, and the mild muscle relaxant potassium. All in all, this is a great food to induce sleep.
Helpful Product: Try the albacore chicken of the sea from Amazon. It comes in a pack of 12, is certified by the American heart association, and has less than .5 grams of sugar. The perfect snack.
Yup, that’s right. Turkey! The age old debate of whether it’s the amount of food you eat on Thanksgiving, or what is in the turkey itself that puts, can finally be put to rest. Turkey contains L-Tryptophan. Our favorite chemical that induces sleep is back. L-Tryptophan is used by the body to make niacin, a B-vitamin that is important for digestion, skin, nerves, and serotonin. Let’s add this under our list of one of the 16 best foods for sleep. Believe it or not Turkey is on the list of best foods for sleep.
Helpful product: Old Wisconsin turkey offers turkey dogs that are high in protein and L-Tryptophan.
Foods for sleep usually contain one of the 5 chemicals that help you sleep. However, this is an interesting one as it falls under leafy greens. Leafy greens contain large amounts of calcium, and a deficiency of calcium can make it very difficult to fall asleep. So although Kale may not help you stay asleep longer, it does allow your body to go to sleep in the first place.
Hummus lovers around the world, rejoice! This mediterranean chickpea snack is not only rich in tryptophan (the chemical that turns into melatonin in our body) but also in folate and vitamin B-6. Folate can help regulate sleep patterns, especially those in elderly people (over 65).
Helpful Product: Try WildGarden dippable hummus, dip it with Kale, or any number of other foods we’ve listed to double the effect. Remember though, the trick is not to eat too much!
Remember, to find the best foods for sleep, find foods that contain the following ingredients:
- Vitamin B6
These chemicals help regulate your brain, and nervous systems’ ability to recuperate during the night, and to signal to your brain that it is time for sleep. Avoid foods high in sugar, high in caffeine, and high fructose corn syrup, foods like popcorn at a late night movie can actually have an adverse affect on your sleep! Be smart, and be safe. Have a goodnight!