Eat Your Way to a Restful Night of Sleep
You know the drill. The 7 am alarm clock rings; blurry eyes make it hard to walk, much less button a shirt. A sluggish morning leads to clutching your third coffee of the morning like it’s your savior and still feeling groggy at noon. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Rocky mornings are often the result of a disrupted sleep cycle or just not enough time sleeping.
The morning struggle is a familiar scene as research shows that 79% of Americans are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep each night.* From stress to insomnia, family situations to Netflix situations, daily life often robs us of the ideal 7-8 hours of nightly shut-eye.
Often, we cannot control the factors that disrupt our bedtimes, but during the wee hours of the morning, there is no excuse for not settling into a deep, restorative sleep pattern to allow our bodies to recover from the day. However, we’re often left tossing and turning in boredom or discomfort as our bodies work overtime to digest and relax.
Fortunately, simple, natural strategies exist to help create a calm body and mind before bed, and most of these tactics rely on a consistently well-balanced diet to feed our body and brain the right nutrients for a healthy life and a healthy sleep. If you're looking for foods that promote sleep, we've got you covered.
Foods That Promote Sleep: Mighty, Mighty Magnesium
You might remember from high school science class that magnesium is a mineral found in excess in our bones as well as in many non-processed foods. It’s necessary for stabilizing both energy and performance levels in the human body as well as regulating muscle and nerve function and blood pressure. Magnesium is an essential mineral, and if you’re not doing due diligence to add it to your diet, your body is missing out on an essential ingredient that affects not only your daily performance but also your ability to sleep soundly at night.
Traces of magnesium are often found in drinking water, but if that is your only source of the mineral, you’re going to come up short on your daily intake. Dietary experts explain that a recommended daily intake varies by gender, age, height, and weight, but it ranges from 400-420 mg for men and 310-360 mg for women. And although it can be challenging to track daily magnesium intake levels, it’s safe to say that most Americans fall short of that average.
So, to keep body functions relegated, including sleep cycles, there are a few essential foods to work into your diet that are magnesium-rich and also beneficial for overall health.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Kale, spinach, chard, arugula, collard greens, and mustard are not just trends in the healthy food industry, they are an excellent source of our mighty mineral. Working one of these super veggies into a daily meal is vital to maintaining your magnesium intake.
Fortunately, salads are not the only way to add those dark green leafy veggies into your diet. Try a Tuscan Bean Soup and add a generous portion of kale for a nutritious dinner. Braise collard greens and add them to your gourmet burger for a unique and healthy addition to a summertime favorite. And as always, pick up a fan favorite Pure Green Juice or Smoothie and help yourself to a clean and refreshing drink with both kale and spinach high on the ingredient list.
Most people are surprised to find this food on the doctor-approved list of magnesium-replete foods, but let’s clarify for a moment: this does not justify your decision to grab a Snickers bar or a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. No, unfortunately, there are no traces of minerals found in those chocolates. Pure dark chocolate is made from cocoa beans which can be transformed into the chocolate we know and love through a series of rigorous processes.
If you’re on a hunt for a dark chocolate bar to help boost your magnesium intake, look for bars with 60% or higher cocoa. It may take a little adjustment of your taste buds as dark chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage means less sugar and more of the slightly-bitter cocoa bean flavor.
Another excellent source of minerals, and especially magnesium, is almonds. We know the value of these nuts for other health benefits such as heart health, but they’re loaded with magnesium as well, making them a delicious and highly nutritious snack.
If you’re on the fence about actually eating a handful of almonds a day, try a smoothie with an almond milk base. It’ll give you the mineral boost you’re looking for and provide a delicious and beneficial alternative to an afternoon latte or late-night bowl of ice cream.
You don’t have to be British to enjoy this multi-beneficial drink. Teas have been used in homeopathic recipes for generations, and for a good reason. The right tea at the right time is a miracle worker. In our case, there are specifically three types of teas that are high in magnesium and contribute to a restful night of sleep.
Rooibos is the first and probably least known tea that’s rich in the wonder-working magnesium and other beneficial compounds. A bush-like plant found in South Africa, Rooibos is a non-caffeinated, healing plant with one of the highest levels of plant-based magnesium. Often infused with a fruit flavor, it’s a delicious way to improve your mineral intake and calm your body functions down before bedtime.
Mint tea is another favorite pre-bed drink known to soothe the digestive system, clear the mind, and settle your body into a peaceful state. With its natural antiseptic and muscle relaxant properties, it would be advantageous to keep a box of this multi-purpose tea around for everyday use.
Finally, chamomile tea, a delicate wildflower that gets dried and sliced into a fresh and simple tea, is a common choice when faced with insomnia or other sleeping troubles. Known in Eastern medicine for promoting a clear mind and tranquil spirit, the scientific medicinal qualities are also vast. This particular tea works overtime to naturally soothe the nervous system which will help alleviate stress and other unwanted physical ailments before bedtime.
Rethink Your Breakfast
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But do you know why? Studies have shown that eating a high-sugar breakfast or skipping the meal altogether can affect more than just the stomach rumbles but actually how well you sleep at night.
In a Telegraph article last year sleep coach Dr. Ramlakhan explains the phenomenon, “It’s as simple as this, if you don’t eat breakfast, your body believes it is living in famine and produces stress hormones that are not conducive to restful sleep.” She goes on to state that something as simple as a handful of fruits and nuts (some almonds and cherries or dates) is an ideal breakfast pattern.
So, the next time you are tempted to skip out on breakfast, remember it has a direct relation to how well your body will perform throughout the day and also the night.
Eat Your Fruits
Finally, onto the fruits. While a daily intake of fruits is just plain good for overall health, specific fruits are known to play a significant role in sound sleep. Let’s start with a newly heralded super fruit, the tropical goodness of kiwi. Little in size but mighty in antioxidants the kiwi is loaded with vitamin C which helps to bolster the immune system. It’s also an excellent source of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which helps boost mood, appetite, and quality of sleep. Add a whole kiwi to a fruit salad, smoothie, or find them in many juices to up your intake.
Next on the fruit tray are a mid-summer favorite, cherries. Rich, slightly tart, fresh from the bush cherries are the poster fruit for aiding digestion, reducing heart disease, preventing cancer, and boosting the immune system. This stone fruit is one of the only natural sources of melatonin which helps regulate those restorative sleep cycles that’s so important for getting a good night of sleep. The type and form of cherry doesn’t seem to matter; you can buy them dried, in juice form, or the fleshy fruit but stay away from the grocery store canned, candied cherries like maraschinos. Unfortunately, the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae won’t help you get that night of sleep you’re looking for.
Lastly, bananas, a common fruit in the smoothie, breakfast, and snack world, are filled to the brim with both magnesium and potassium, both natural muscle relaxants. Experts suggest eating a banana a day to help regulate potassium levels in your body. A healthy balance of potassium will alleviate muscle cramps and will naturally help your body relax as the sun begins to set. Consider grabbing a banana for an easy-to-digest, multi-beneficial late-night snack.
When it comes to sleep, inevitably there are going to be disruptions, anxiety, loud neighbors, and big projects that will keep you up past a healthy bedtime and often there’s nothing we can do about that. However, if you can focus on providing your body with the nutrients it needs to overcome sleepless nights and incorporate foods that promote sleep into your daily life, you’ll be able to get through those rough patches without falling into a bad sleep pattern or severely affecting your health.