Lack of sleep is a common problem affecting millions of people. It can show up as not being able to fall asleep, waking up multiple times through the night, or not being able to fall back to sleep. And studies show it can get worse with age: Fifty percent of older adults report having sleep difficulties. Some foods can help with sleep.
Stress, medical conditions, trauma, caffeine, shift work, and medications are just some of the things that can affect sleep. Sleeplessness affects the quality of life and health. For example, there’s increasing evidence that insomnia contributes to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and can be a factor in early death. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that at least 35% of U. S. (1 in 3) adults do not get the required 7 hours of sleep.
Foods that Can Help with Sleep
While there are many suggestions on how to fall and stay asleep, there is one that is over-looked, food. Compounds in foods like tryptophan, potassium, and magnesium relax muscles and encourage sleep. However, it’s important to eat meals at least two hours before bedtime and snacks not later than thirty minutes before bed. Also, large, high-fat meals late in the day can interfere with falling asleep.
Cherries contain melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone. Research participants in a cherry juice study showed significant improvement in being able to fall asleep.
Lentilsand almonds contain significant amounts of magnesium that is good for the nervous system and help to relax muscles.
Bananas and milk contain tryptophan a well-known sleep inducing plant compound. The brain uses tryptophan to produce the hormones serotonin and melatonin. Both hormones help to regulate the sleep, wake cycle. Bananas also have magnesium and potassium that relax muscles and can ease muscle cramps, such as a charley horse. Research showed that melatonin levels increased 180 percent after eating bananas.
Garbanzo beans, which hummus is made from, contains folate and vitamin B-6. These vitamins support the nervous system, helping to calm it. For older people, folate has been shown to be especially helpful in regulating sleep patterns. Vitamin B-6 helps to adjust the circadian cycle.
Pineapple increases levels of melatonin considerably. Increasing melatonin levels is essential for older people because melatonin decreases as we age. Studies conducted on the effects of pineapple on sleep showed that melatonin was raised more than 266 percent after eating pineapples.
Lettuce contains lactucarium that sedates the nervous system and induces sleep. Boiled iceberg lettuce made into tea releases plant compounds that are said to help induce sleep. It’s also reported to help with colicky babies.
Other Suggestion to Improve Sleep.
The CDC offers these suggestions to create good sleep habits:
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
- Avoid tobacco/nicotine.
- Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.[i]
Sleep is a necessity for physical, mental, and emotional health. So it’s important not to brush off not getting enough sleep. One way to improve sleep is to add foods that encourage relaxation, increase natural sleep hormones, and calm the nervous system to the diet.
[i] Getting Enough Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/getting-enough-sleep/index.html.
Briffa, John. Can’t Sleep? Hold the Coffee. (February 2, 2003). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2003/feb/09/foodanddrink.features8.
Cline, John Ph.D. Insomnia and Heart Disease. Retrieved from https.://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleepless-in-america/201712/insomnia-and-heart-disease.
Getting Enough Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/getting-enough-sleep/index.html.
Olson, Eric J. M.D. Food and sleep. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/foods-that-help-you-sleep/faq-20057763.
Simon, Nissa. 14 Foods that Can Help You Sleep (November 14, 2015). Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/foods-that-help-you-sleep-photo.html#slide17.
Sleep Disorders in the Older Adult – a Mini-Review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2842167/
Simon, Nissa. 14 Foods that Can Help You Sleep 9November 14, 2015). Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/foods-that-help-you-sleep-photo.html#slide17.
Sleep Disorders in the Older Adult – a Mini-Review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2842167/.