When you stop and think about it, the idea of sleep can seem quite strange. We sleep every day, spending about one-third to one-fourth of our lives in a semi-conscious state, unaware of most changes in our surroundings.
During sleep, we enter an altered state of consciousness, with most of our sensory functions inhibited. Most muscle activity is suppressed and almost all voluntary muscles are completely inhibited, creating a form of paralysis that only lasts during sleep.
There is still much about sleep that is not fully understood, but medical researchers do know that sleep is essential to good physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Sleep deprivation can lead to many negative health consequences, and getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night can lead to health problems over time.
If you have trouble sleeping, either falling asleep or staying asleep it could simply because your body isn’t getting what it needs from your diet. Nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even hormones play an active role in our sleep quality, recovery, rest and rejuvenation!
If your diet doesn’t include specific key nutrients that help the body to relax then you may have a hard time falling asleep, finding yourself feeling wired and on edge each night when you truly just desire to relax and sleep.
That’s why this is an important concept to understand, that the food you eat can either support your sleep or make it harder for you to sleep. Today we’re going to cover 10 foods that will improve the quality of your sleep, and hopefully help with any sleep challenges that you’ve had over the years.
10 Foods That Improve Sleep Quality
- Tart Cherries: Tart cherries are one of the few foods that are a naturally occurring source of melatonin. Your body produces melatonin naturally but having it from a food source helps your body to relax and your circadian biology (internal clock) to get onto the right track!
- Pistachios: Pistachio nuts are also a naturally occurring source of melatonin. These are known as the ‘energy nut’ so best to eat these in the morning or mid-day, definitely not at night!
- Goji Berries: Goji berries are a delicious protein rich berry that is good before or after a workout. These are great on their own or in smoothies blended in. These antioxidant rich berries do contain some melatonin which improves sleep quality!
- Oats: Oats are not only a source of melatonin but they are also great for skin health, gut health and more! These fiber rich foods help to clean the colon walls and keep your bowel movements regular! A great snack if you’re hungry before bedtime.
- Turkey: Turkey is a rich source of L-Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps induce a calm mind and body. This is the turkey coma that people get in on Thanksgiving, they’re getting more L-Tryptophan in!
- Blueberries: Blueberries are an antioxidant rich, fiber rich, and water rich berry. These delicious berries are good for calming anxiety and sharpening the mind. These berries are a great way to keep your energy levels healthy during the day and your body calm at night.
- Green Leafy Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables of any kind, be it spinach, kale, chard or romaine are all great for helping the body and nervous system get calm. These mineral rich greens help to tame the nervous system and to unravel any anxiety and bring the body back into a state of ease.
- Yogurt!: Believe it or not a study with 36 women from UCLA found that probiotics from Yogurt reduced brain activity in areas that handled emotion, including stress. Yogurt is calcium, protein and probiotic rich. Get organic cow or goat yogurt!
- Salmon: Salmon is an omega-3 rich fatty fish. This fat reduces inflammation, supports brain health and helps to calm anxiety hormones within the body. This helps the body to counteract the negative effects of stress hormones. Get wild caught salmon for the highest quality!
- Dark Chocolate: Last but not least (by a long shot) dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium which is an incredibly calming mineral for the body and nervous system. Cacao (the main ingredient in chocolate) is rich in theobromine however, and this is a stimulant so it is best to have chocolate in the morning or mid-day, and not necessarily night as it does alert the mind. Look for the sustainably sourced label!
And there you have it. Ten foods that help to calm the body, ease stress and improve your sleep quality.
Another few important tips to keep in mind to improve your sleep quality is:
- Keep your room cool: The ideal sleeping temperature is 65 degrees fahrenheit. Lowering the thermostat at night or better yet opening your windows for some cool fresh air will improve your breathing patterns and ultimately improve sleep quality.
- Keep Lighting Minimal: If you can, keep all lights off. Even night lights or cracks in the window. The darker the sleeping environment the higher the quality of sleep overall. Light in the eyes or on the skin confuses the body and internal (awake/asleep) hormones and this causes the body to be confused and mess up sleep schedules. Even small amounts of light can throw it off.
- Check out Red Light Therapy! Research into using it for sleep showed that full-body irradiation provided improved sleep quality and helped to enhance production of melatonin. Using it before bed can be beneficial for those who are wanting to improve the quality of their sleep. It is unlikely that red light exposure prior to bed will make sleeping more difficult.
If you’re looking for a few other ideas to improve your sleep quality watch these videos below:
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