It is no surprise that in today’s society, good sleep is hard to come by.
Between the increasingly high demands placed on us at the office, caring for ourselves and our families, and finding downtime for personal enjoyment, sleep often drops to the bottom of the priority list.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. And even though The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, about 35.2% of Americans get less than that.
Establishing healthy sleep habits like avoiding screens before bed, going to sleep at the same time every night, and performing soothing practices before you hit the hay can be beneficial. But what you might not know is what you’re eating throughout the day can also have a big impact on the rest you may—or may not—be getting.
Vitamins, minerals & eating tips to help you doze off
Fueling your body with healthy, whole foods that are rich in a variety of nutrients has always been a recommended way to eat. However, now we’re going to take this method a step further and discuss ways that you can eat well to prepare your body to wind down for the day. Here are our functional nutritionist’s recommendations for how to fuel your body for restful sleep.
Magnesium is a miracle mineral when it comes to helping the body drift off into slumber. This is because it helps the body produce melatonin—which has been known to help ward off insomnia and improve sleep habits. You can naturally find magnesium in dark, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, fish, and beans.
Just as magnesium plays a critical role in the production of melatonin, so does calcium. In fact, the brain needs calcium so that it can fully utilize the amino acid, tryptophan, to make melatonin and trigger drowsiness. Fill up on a glass of milk or perhaps have some broccoli to get your daily dose of this essential mineral.
Research suggests that there may be a link between low levels of vitamin C and a lack of quality sleep. This evidence suggests that when your body does not have enough vitamin C throughout the course of the day, you are more likely to wake up periodically during the night rather than sleeping until morning. Oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, and Brussels sprouts all contain enough of your daily vitamin C dosage.
There has been a proven association between vitamin D deficiency and sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. The thought behind this research stems from the idea that vitamin D is great for maintaining quality levels of sleep. Because we can get a large portion of daily vitamin D intake from exposure to sunlight, it is especially crucial to focus on hitting recommended levels of vitamin D in the winter when hours of sunlight are reduced.
To make sure you are maintaining your recommended vitamin D levels all year long, include more salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, and mushrooms in your diet.
Studies show that people with the best sleep habits had the highest fiber consumption. Those that had less than 5 hours of sleep had the lowest fiber intake.
In addition, the study also found that participants who ate a diet higher in sugar and saturated fat had more disrupted sleep patterns, with refined carbohydrates being a big culprit. Complex carbohydrates found in whole foods were found to create a more stable blood sugar level than added sugars from processed foods like baked goods, crackers, and chips.
Some high fiber foods to consider adding to your regular meal rotations include avocados, raspberries, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, oats, almonds, and chia seeds.
Foods that inhibit shut-eye
If your goal is to doze off as quickly as possible, there are certain foods that you may want to avoid. This list includes:
- Tea (with caffeine)
- Soda & energy drinks
- Processed foods
- High fat foods
Foods that fuel zzz’s
Just as there are many foods that can keep us awake, there are also many that can put us to bed. Below are just a few of our favorite bedtime snacks, packed with healthy nutrients, that you can incorporate into your nighttime ritual.
- Almonds (melatonin)
- Chamomile tea (apigenin, an antioxidant that promotes sleep)
- Poultry (tryptophan, which helps produce melatonin)
- Wild caught fish (B6, melatonin)
- Kale (calcium, which helps process melatonin and tryptophan)
- Bananas (potassium, magnesium, and tryptophan)
- Nuts & seeds (boosts serotonin)
- Grapes (melatonin)
- Dry, tart cherries (melatonin)
- Garbanzo beans (B6)
- Broccoli (fiber)
Our personal favorite bedtime recipe is for Dreamy Golden Milk. Follow the recipe below and let us know how you like it!
Dreamy Golden Milk
- 2 cups Almond Milk, unsweetened
- 1 tsp. Turmeric Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Ginger Powder
- 1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. Cardamom Powder
- 1/16 tsp. Cloves, ground
- 1 Cinnamon stick, or 1/4 tsp. ground Cinnamon
- 1 Star Anise (optional)
- 1/4 Vanilla bean, scraped or 1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
- Pinch of Black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tsp. Honey, or Stevia to taste (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil (optional- assists with the absorption of turmeric)
1. Place the almond milk in a small saucepan. Add all the spices and heat gently. Simmer for 5 minutes. Do not boil the milk but allow it to heat thoroughly. At the end, add a sweetener of your choice and the coconut oil (optional).
2. Whisk well. Pour into 2 cups. You may strain out the spices or serve with a cinnamon stick and star anise in the cups.
3. Sip and enjoy in a relaxing environment! This dreamy golden milk can be a nourishing and soothing bedtime ritual.
Even more important than the last thing you eat before bed is the timing of your last meal. We recommend eating your last meal approximately 2-3 hours before you hit the hay for proper digestion and absorption.
The root cause of insomnia can often be difficult to pinpoint. Stress, a busy schedule, a poor nighttime routine, medications, medical conditions, changes in activity level, and changes in health can all influence our ability to get a good night’s sleep. However, focusing on factors you can control—like your nutritional intake—encourages you to take your power back and make lasting changes that will result in healthy sleep habits for years to come.
Finding a sleep routine that works for you will take some time, but that is why we are here to help. Scheduling an appointment with one of our functional nutritionists is a great first step toward uncovering the root cause of your insomnia. Located in Solana Beach in San Diego County, CA, Spark Health Integrative Medicine takes a whole-body approach to your healthcare, which means we will work with you on a nutrition plan to help you make the most of your night time hours. Contact us to book your consultation!
Article written by Shannon Vogler and Nikaya Kipp, HHP, INHC