Foods Good For Sleep

There are a myriad of chemicals, amino acids, enzymes, nutrients, and hormones that work together to help regulate our sleep cycle and improve the quality of our sleep. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Tryptophan

  • Melatonin

  • GABA

  • Calcium

  • Potassium

  • Magnesium

  • Pyridoxine

  • L-ornithine

  • Serotonin

  • Histamine

  • Acetylcholine

  • Folate

  • Antioxidants

  • Vitamin D

  • B Vitamins

  • Zinc

  • Copper

Most foods contain low concentrations of these compounds. The key to improving our sleeping quality is incorporating foods that contain HIGH concentrations! 

Here are some suggestions:

Almonds: Almonds contain Melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep/wake cycle. They also are a good source of Magnesium and Calcium, which are two minerals that can promote muscle relaxation and sleepiness. 

Walnuts: This nut contains Melatonin, Serotonin, and Magnesium, along with other compounds that can improve sleep, including Potassium, Folate, and Calcium. 

Warm milk: Milk contains four sleep promoting compounds: Tryptophan, Calcium, Vitamin D, and melatonin.***

Chamomile Tea: This tea has been used for centuries as a remedy for insomnia. Some researchers think that a flavonoid called Apigenin is responsible for chamomile’s sleep-supporting properties. Apigenin appears to activate GABA receptors – which promotes sleep.***

***It may be the routine of having something warm to drink before bed that helps folks fall asleep too!

Kiwis: This fruit contains Melatonin, Anthocyanins, Flavonoids, Carotenoids, Potassium, Magnesium, Folate, and Calcium. In one small study, people who ate two kiwis 1 hr before bed for 4 weeks took less time to fall asleep and experienced improved sleep quality and longer sleep time.  

Tart cherries and tart cherry juice: Cherries contain four sleep-promoting compounds: Melatonin, Potassium, Serotonin, and Tryptophan. Some researchers believe that antioxidants called Polyphenols found in cherries are responsible for influencing sleep. A 2018 review also found a correlation between improved sleep and cherry consumption. Cherries are also anti-inflammatory – they may reduce pain after exercise and improve cognitive function. BONUS: they’re rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. 

Fatty fish: fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D – which are two nutrients that help regulate Serotonin. Serotonin helps establish our sleep/wake cycle. Fatty fish also contains other important micros like Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Vitamin B-12, Folate, and Calcium. A 2014 study showed that participants who ate salmon 3 times a week for 6 months fell asleep more quickly than those who ate chicken, beef, or pork with the same nutritional value. This could be due to the increased Vitamin D content as well as the effect that Omega-3s have on regulating our heart rate. 

To experience the benefits of these foods – try eating them a few hours before bed. They’re also highly nutritious are very safe for folks without allergies to enjoy in moderation. 

Author: Megan Markoff, Black Iron Nutrition Coach, @meganmarkoff