Sleep is undoubtedly one of the most critical factors to your health and well-being. Yet for millions of people, high-quality sleep is hard to get. There’s no shortage of advice on how to get better sleep, much of which involves the common advice to sleep in a dark room, avoid bright screens at night, and maintain a cool temperature in the bedroom.
But did you know that your diet also plays a significant (and often underestimated) role in determining your sleep quality? It’s true. The food you eat plays a role in many bodily functions, and that includes your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. The right foods can help you catch more Zs, while the wrong foods can keep you tossing and turning well into the wee hours of the night.
In this article, we’ll share 3 foods that can help your sleep—and 3 that can hinder it.
Good Food #1: Try Some Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps your body to produce serotonin, which calms us down and helps us sleep. Many people associate it with the post-meal sleepiness that many Americans experience after eating Thanksgiving dinner.
And yes, it’s true that turkey is high in tryptophan. But so are pumpkin seeds, salmon, and even peanut butter. So consider having one of these foods for dinner or a healthy evening snack. Just don’t eat too much of these foods, because that can have the opposite effect on your sleep quality—which we’ll discuss next.
Bad Food #1: Avoid Large Meals at Night
Eating the right foods can help improve your sleep…but don’t overdo it. Eating a large meal too close to bed can have the opposite effect, because your body will still be digesting the food while you’re trying to get to sleep. That goes double for high-fat meals and spicy foods. Both of these can trigger heartburn, creating an uncomfortable sensation that might make it difficult to nod off.
This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy fatty or spicy foods at night. But if your dinner includes foods like this, it would be wise to eat on the earlier side to allow extra time for digestion.
Good Food #2: Fill Up on Fiber
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet for many reasons. It’s good for your digestive system, it keeps you full and contributes to weight loss, and helps keep your blood sugar levels in check. And according to this 2016 study, it’s even associated with deeper, more restorative sleep with fewer arousals. So try adding some high-fiber foods to your evening routine. We especially love popcorn as a light yet tasty high-fiber snack.
Bad Food #2: Be Careful of Carbs
When it comes to sleep, carbs can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, eating a high-carb meal can make you sleepy in the short term. But eating too many carbs can also interfere with your overall sleep quality. In the words of one article published in Advances in Nutrition, “A significant trend toward worse sleep quality with increasing carbohydrate intake was found.” In other words, eating too many carbs contributes to a lower quality of sleep.
Good Food #3: Eat a Balanced Diet
Research has shown that sleep quality can be hindered by a lack of nutrients, including calcium; magnesium; and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. Looking for a healthy source of these vitamins and minerals? Try some of these nutrient-rich foods:
- For calcium, dairy is a great source—as are leafy green vegetables.
- For magnesium, snack on a handful of pumpkin seeds (also a great source of tryptophan).
- For vitamin A, consider a handful of carrots. They’re rich sources of beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.
- For vitamin C, skip the high-sugar oranges and try a bell pepper instead.
- For vitamin D, try some salmon or mushrooms.
- For vitamin E, grab a handful of nuts—almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts are all good sources.
- For vitamin K, consider a salad with lots of leafy greens like spinach.
In general, a diet high in fruits and vegetables is also a diet high in the vitamins and minerals that can help you float away into restorative sleep. A good diet motto is: when in doubt, always eat more fruits and veggies.
Bad Food #3: Don’t Drink Too Much Too Close to Bed
Many people make a point to avoid drinking coffee in the afternoon and evening. And they’re smart to do so. After all, consuming caffeine late in the day can absolutely interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Drinking alcohol can have detrimental effects, as well. A drink or two might help make you feel sleepy in the short term, but alcohol can interfere with your sleep quality. In other words: alcohol might make you fall asleep, but you’ll be more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. So try not to drink too much alcohol too close to bed.
But what about other drinks? Is it OK to drink liquids other than caffeine and alcohol before bed?
The answer here lies in striking a good balance. On one hand, you don’t want to be dehydrated at night; so in that regard, it might be wise to drink some water or herbal tea. But on the other hand, you don’t want to drink too much or else you might find yourself getting up to use the bathroom several times at night. We find that a warm cup of chamomile tea is just enough to hit that sweet spot.
Bonus Tip: Before Bed Consider Taking CBD for Sleep
Many people find that taking some CBD at night helps them to relax and enjoy a deeper, more restful night’s sleep. Charlotte’s Web™ CBD Sleep Gummies are a great option. They contain 10 mg of plant-based cannabinoids per serving, plus the well-known sleeping aid, melatonin. They come in a tasty raspberry flavor and a convenient gummy form. Give them a try if you’d like a little extra something to help you wake up feeling refreshed and invigorated in the morning.