Getting enough rest is a challenge for many of us. When you combine packed social and professional schedules with common biological issues that disrupt sleep, it’s not always easy to get quality rest. According to a Consumer Reports survey, 164 million Americans struggle with sleep at least once a week. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to get more shut-eye—including making a few simple tweaks to your diet. “Sleep is essential to overall wellness by decreasing stress hormones, healing tissues, and allowing for mental clarity,” says Jessica DeLuise, founder of Eat Your Way to Wellness. “There are foods that provide key nutrients, which can help you achieve better sleep.” Below, experts elaborate on the key foods for better sleep you should include in your lifestyle and how to weave them into your diet with simple recipes.
Sleep Hormones and Foods for Better Sleep
The first step to achieving better sleep is understanding how the body works. There are several hormones in the body that play a part in the sleep cycle.
“Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that helps to control your body’s sleep-wake cycle,” says Lisa Hayim, M.S., R.D., founder of The Well Necessities. “Your melatonin levels are raised for 12 hours, from 9 p.m. 9 a.m. It begins to rise when the sun goes down and drops when the sun comes up. The amount of light you’re exposed to and your internal clock impact the amount of melatonin produced.”
To avoid taking synthetic melatonin that may leave you feeling even more tired the next day, try including the following foods with your evening meals:
- Red wine
Most people have heard of tryptophan because of its close relation to the inevitable food coma after a Thanksgiving meal. “The amino acid tryptophan has been the culprit people have been blaming for post-Thanksgiving naps for years,” DeLuise explains. “Tryptophan is converted into melatonin found abundantly in walnuts, spirulina, sweet potatoes, and oats.”
Foods containing tryptophan help generate serotonin and melatonin, so incorporate them into your evening diet as well. Hayim suggests the following foods for better sleep:
- Seeds and nuts such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds
- Whole grains
- Chicken or turkey
- Seafood such as tuna, halibut, salmon, snapper
- Shellfish such as clams, oysters, shrimp, lobster
Another distinct hormone that plays a role in sleep is dopamine, which is linked to improving mood, fatigue, and sleep. There are several diets that focus solely on increasing this hormone. Elevate your dopamine level with these foods:
- Grass-fed meats
- Organic produce
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Fermented dairy such as kefir
Recipes for Better Sleep
Now that you know the key foods for better sleep, try the recipes below to achieve a well-deserved rest.
Shut-Eye Shot by Nikki Ostrower, nutritionist
1 chamomile tea bag
1 skullcap tea bag
Young Living lavender essential oil
Juice of ¼ of a Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon raw honey
2 cups water
- In a pot, boil 2 cups of water.
- Turn off the stove, and add the tea bags. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Once the tea cools off (lukewarm), add 1 drop of lavender essential oil, lemon, and the raw honey. Pour and enjoy.
Suggested use: room-temperature or warm. One-ounce shot before bed.
Grilled Salmon with Pineapple Salsa by Jessica DeLuise
1 1-inch pineapple ring
1 teaspoon coconut oil
½ cup diced tomatoes
1 small jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, zest and juice
1 tablespoon EVOO
½ teaspoon sea salt
One serving is a 3-ounce fillet, about the size of a checkbook
- Rub pineapple with coconut oil, and grill the slice on high heat for 2 minutes on each side.
- Let it cool, and then chop it into ½-inch pieces.
- Mix all ingredients.
- Lay one salmon fillet on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper to the salmon.
- Roast one salmon fillet for 15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Serve the salmon with about a ½ cup of pineapple salsa and a side of fresh spinach or romaine.
Kefir Yogurt Cup by Jessica DeLuise
2 cups strawberries
2 cups kefir
½ cup cocoa powder
⅛ teaspoon pink salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- Blend all ingredients, and freeze for 3-4 hours.
Next time you’re missing out valuable shut-eye, take a look at your diet. Consider incorporating these foods for better sleep into your daily diet and see how it impacts your rest.