Why Low-Quality Sleep is Making You Ill and 5 Foods that Guarantee a Good Night’s Sleep

28.02.18

Why Low-Quality Sleep is Making You Ill and 5 Foods that Guarantee a Good Night’s Sleep

Written by Elliot Reimers

Elliot received his B.Sc. in Biology/Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota; he is thoroughly passionate and educated about the science behind human physiology, nutrition, & dietary supplementation. He is a published author on many mainstream fitness/health media sites.

Getting a good night’s rest is the first step towards making the most of your day. We all know the feeling of tossing and turning throughout the night, then finally nodding off right before your morning alarm tells you it’s time to get up. Chances are you’ll feel miserable if that happens routinely. Hence, sleep is of paramount importance for your well-being and longevity.

You already know that, though. But you might not know there’s research demonstrating that adequate sleep may significantly decrease the risk of chronic diseases, enhance digestive and cognitive function, and support your immune function.

Sadly, sleep is still a low priority for most people due to constant “connectivity” and stressful work demands. It's normally advised to sleep between 6-8 hours each night, but the majority of us struggle to do so.

The good news is that there are numerous dietary modifications you can make to get quality rest each night, as certain foods and drinks have sleep-inducing benefits (while others can interfere with your sleep). Read on as I reveal the five of the best food/drink options to consume before bed for restful sleep (as well as which foods to avoid).

1. Turkey

Turkey is the quintessential “sleep” food because of its abundant amounts of L-tryptophan - an amino acid that helps produce serotonin and melatonin (a sleep-regulating hormone). Turkey contains generous amounts of protein, providing four grams per ounce of lean turkey breast. Protein is necessary for repairing/maintaining lean tissue (muscle) and managing your appetite.

Protein from turkey also appears to promote sleepiness. Evidence suggests that taking in moderate quantities of protein prior to bed correlates to enhanced sleep quality and duration, and less frequent mid-sleep waking episodes.

Additionally, turkey is a great source of key vitamins and minerals. An ounce of turkey breast consists of 5% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) for riboflavin/vitamin B2, 5% for phosphorus, and 9% for selenium.

While further direct research is needed to confirm turkey's sleep-inducing benefits, there are undoubtedly benefits to eating poultry before bed, particularly for those who have problems falling (and staying) asleep.

Takeaway:

Turkey is a terrific food choice for prior to sleep because of its protein and L-tryptophan profile, which both appear to promote restful sleep.

2. Chamomile Tea

Thanks to an abundant composition of flavonoids - a group of antioxidants which decrease inflammation - drinking chamomile tea may reduce risk of serious ailments, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Additionally, research suggests that drinking chamomile tea can enhance immune function, decrease stress/anxiety, and support skin health. Being stressed out and anxious is often a major cause of restlessness. One study that examined women who consumed chamomile tea for two weeks reported improved sleep quality and less anxiety compared with control subjects.

Furthermore, this particular tea contains a polyphenol called apigenin that alters your brain chemistry to induce tiredness and help treat insomnia.

In fact, recent research in 34 adults showed that participants who took an herbal chamomile extract twice per day for four weeks fell asleep 15 minutes quicker (on average) and exhibited fewer sleep disturbances compared with adults who didn’t supplement with chamomile extract.

As such, drinking chamomile tea prior to going to sleep is a worthwhile dietary choice you should try.

Takeaway:

Chamomile tea contains antioxidants that might promote restfulness and consuming prior to bedtime has been shown to enhance overall sleep quality.

3. Almonds/Almond Butter

Almonds are a type of tree nut with an exceptional composition of micronutrients; one ounce of raw almonds contains 14% of the RDI for phosphorus, 19% for magnesium, 32% for manganese and 17% for vitamin B2/riboflavin.

Research contends that consuming sufficient amounts of magnesium and manganese may help improve sleep quality, specifically for those who have mood disorders. Moreover, magnesium is thought to support healthy cortisol rhythms, which is imperative for quality rest.

Better yet, consuming almonds daily is correlated with reduced risk of cardiovascular and metabolic illness, such as type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Research accredits this to the healthy essential fatty acids, dietary fibers, and antioxidants in almonds.

A recent study on rats analyzed the tranquilizing effect of feeding them 400 mg of almond extract. Findings showed that rats slept longer and more deeply after consuming almond extract than they did without consuming almond extract. Nevertheless, more human research is necessary to elucidate the potential of almonds for enhancing sleep.

If you’re in search of a simple bedtime snack, then almonds are a great selection. Even just an ounce (which is about a handful) will likely suffice for bettering your sleep.

Takeaway:

Almonds provide a range of key micronutrients, including the sleep-promoting minerals magnesium and manganese, making them a terrific food to nosh on prior to bed.

4. Kiwi Fruit

Kiwis are low-calorie/low-sugar, micronutrient-dense fruits. The average-sized kiwi has as few as 40 calories along with an abundance of vitamins and minerals, including over 100% of the RDI for vitamin C and nearly 40% for vitamin K.

Furthermore, kiwis contain a high amount of carotenoids and dietary fiber, which can support the digestive process, decrease inflammation, and promote healthy blood lipid profiles.

In terms of sleep enhancement, research contends that kiwis are potentially the best fruit to consume prior to bed. For example, a four-week clinical study of 24 adults examined the effect of consuming two whole kiwi fruit one hour prior to going to sleep, nightly. During the four weeks, subjects dozed off 42% quicker (on average) than the weeks when they didn't consume anything prior to bedtime.

Additionally, the participants’ capability to sleep continuously each night increased by 5%, and their time spent asleep per night went up by 13%.

Sleep-inducing properties of kiwi fruits are often attributed to their richness in serotonin - a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep cycles and mood. It’s likely that the vitamin C in kiwi also helps induce restfulness by regulating cortisol rhythms.

All in all, consuming one or two medium-size kiwis prior to bedtime is a superb food choice for longer, higher-quality sleep.

Takeaway:

Kiwis are abundant in serotonin and vitamin C (as well as other antioxidants), which can enhance sleep if consumed prior to bed.

5. Salmon (and other Freshwater Fish)

Freshwater fish that are rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), like salmon, tuna, mackerel, are exceptionally healthy. Not only is salmon packed with key omega-3 EFAs (like DHA and EPA), but it also contains over 50% of the RDI for vitamin D per 100 grams. This makes salmon one of the healthiest fish options for longevity and general health.

Furthermore, the omega-3 EFAs and vitamin D found in salmon may promote better sleep by increasing serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain. In fact, low levels of vitamin D in the body are correlated with reduced sleep quality.

In one research study, adult males who consumed Atlantic salmon (300-gram portion) thrice weekly for six months were able to fall asleep roughly 10 minutes quicker than males who ate beef, chicken, or pork instead.

Eating as little as three ounces of salmon (or other freshwater fish) prior to bed is a great option for helping you nod off come bedtime. While more research is necessary to uncover the exact mechanisms through which salmon (and other fish) help improve sleep, the extant literature is certainly compelling.

Takeaway:

Fatty fish, especially salmon, are a fantastic source of omega-3s and vitamin D, each of which appear to play a role in enhancing sleep quality.

Foods to Avoid Prior to Bedtime

Now that I’ve covered the best food choices for helping you get a good night’s rest, let’s quickly cover some foods/drinks that you should avoid prior to bedtime.

  • Coffee and Caffeinated Tea
    • Despite it being clear that drinking coffee and caffeine-containing tea prior to bed is not prudent for enhancing sleep, many people still succumb to that late-night cup of joe. If you absolutely can’t resist a nice warming beverage before bed, go for decaffeinated varieties, like herbal (chamomile) tea and decaf coffee.
  • Soda/Sugary Soft Drinks
    • Soda and sugar-laden soft drinks are not a good choice before nodding off to sleep. On top of their usual caffeine content, soda and soft drinks contain tons of added sugar, which can cause rapid blood sugar spikes and restlessness. Steer clear of these before bedtime; instead, try plain sparkling water if you want a carbonated beverage.
  • Chocolate/Candy
    • Cacao is typically high in caffeine content, which can interfere with your sleep rhythms (especially when ingested before bedtime). Just like most soft drinks, candy is often loaded with added sugar (and fat), making it far from ideal prior to bedtime.

Eating Before Bed

In general, you shouldn’t eat within 45 minutes to an hour of bedtime. This is mainly because the digestive process takes time and requires energy; when you lay down to sleep, your body is essentially trying to shut off, so having a bunch of food in your stomach/digestive tract is likely to hamper that goal.

Moreover, laying down after eating can disrupt the digestive process and cause indigestion/acid reflux (since gravity actually assists with moving food through your gastrointestinal system). For optimal sleep, I recommend finishing your last meal/snack roughly one hour prior to laying down to sleep.

Take-Home Points

There you have it, five of the best foods/drinks you can consume for enhancing your sleep duration and quality (and some of the foods you should avoid before bed). To recap, the best dietary choices for better sleep are:

  • Turkey
  • Almonds/Almond Butter
  • Chamomile Tea
  • Kiwi
  • Salmon/Fatty Fish

Due to their sleep-promoting nutrients, any of these foods are great selections and should be staples of your final meal before bedtime. Remember, avoid foods high in sugar and caffeine, like coffee, soda, and candy close to bedtime as they can significantly inhibit your capacity to doze off.

Are Micronutrient Deficiencies Causing You to Lose Sleep?

If there’s one core mechanism that underlies sleep disturbances, it’s micronutrient deficiencies. Most all of the foods discussed in this article are good sources of the necessary vitamins/minerals that help you sleep better. If you’re struggling to consume the right foods to meet your micronutrient needs, I highly recommend supplementing with the following:

In addition to these common nutrients being deficient, Nu U Nutrition customers have reported sleep quality improvements with several of our products, including 5HTP derived from natural Griffonia extract.

"This has worked wonders with anxiety and sleep problems. It gives a very calming effect and reduces anxiety significantly. Great product."

"Fantastic product! Really helps with a good night's sleep...recommended highly."

We’ve also heard positive results from those who use Nu U Nutrition Montmorency Cherry Capsules:

"Works so well for my sleep problems. I haven't had more than 2 or 3 hours sleep for years but am now getting a regular 5 or 6 hours a night. I have recommended it to my friends."

"I saw a TV documentary on insomnia which tested several different sleep aids and Montomorency Cherry came out on top, so I ordered these and they have really helped me. I take them with my evening meal about 3 hours before bedtime and am pleasantly relaxed and go straight off to sleep. I'm very pleased and will continue to take this product."

Learn more about how each of these products have helped improve quality of sleep for our customers.


Previous article Next article

You may also like to read...

Are There Any True Superfoods?

Are There Any True Superfoods?

Written by Elliot Reimers Elliot received his B.Sc. in Biology/Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota; he is thoroughly passionate and educated about the science behind human physiology, nutrition, & dietary...

Read more

7 Reasons Why Your Body Needs Folate and How to Get Enough in Your Diet

7 Reasons Why Your Body Needs Folate and How to Get Enough in Your Diet

Written by Carmela Pengelly. Carmela is a dietary therapist and nutritional therapist, trained in the UK. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia, where she practices as a nutritionist, specializing...

Read more

10 Common Digestive Problems and How to Deal with Them

10 Common Digestive Problems and How to Deal with Them

Carmela Pengelly is a dietary therapist and nutritional therapist, trained in the UK.   She now lives in Perth, Western Australia, where she practises as a nutritionist, specialising in SIBO...

Read more

How to Uncover an Iron Deficiency and Correct it In 3 Easy Steps

How to Uncover an Iron Deficiency and Correct it In 3 Easy Steps

Written by James Lyons James Lyons is a registered clinical nutritionist with special interest in preventative medicine, endocrine conditions and LGBTQI health. He is passionate about health education and patient...

Read more