When you’re lying awake in the middle of the night, surrounded by slumbering sounds, it doesn’t really help to know that you’re in good company – a third of adults have trouble sleeping.
But it may help to know that snacking on certain foods before bed, can make a huge difference to how well you sleep. Like grandma used to say – warm milk and cinnamon toast!
Many sleep issues result from low levels of melatonin – that’s the hormone that regulates sleep. Others often accompany depleted antioxidants – those vitamins that clean up behind bodily processes and hostile environments. Some arise when your folate levels are low – that’s one of the B vitamins involved in melatonin production.
So, eating a few things to boost your melatonin, antioxidant and folate levels should get you a better night’s sleep. If you’re trying any of these foods for the first time, test them earlier in the day and watch for reactions. The last thing you want to do is discover that you’re allergic to something just before bedtime.
Sleep-Promoting Foods Rich in Melatonin:
Bananas, at 100 calories, are rich in melatonin and muscle relaxers, both qualities make them ideal sleepy snacks to eat about two hours before bed.
At just 50 calories, a cup of diced cantaloupe provides almost 100% of the daily requirement for vitamins A and C. That antioxidant boost, just an hour before bed, can help you sleep better.
Half a cup of fresh cherries, at just 45 calories, rapidly boosts your melatonin levels to deliver a better night’s sleep. Unfortunately fresh cherries have a very short season leaving many sleep seekers dependent on cherry juice. Unless you can find an unsweetened variety those additional cherry juice sugars, right before bed, could quickly add pounds (and insulin spikes). Limit yourself to two to four ounces about an hour before bed. Try this chilled sour-cherry soup
The chickpeas and sesame seeds used to make hummus are bursting with the folates and other B vitamins used to produce melatonin. You’ll want to eat this on whole grain pitas about three hours before bed to allow time for digestion. Delicious though it is two tablespoons and one slice of toast will give you 100 calories and should be enough to help you sleep.
A single kiwi, at 45 calories, provides over 100% of your daily recommended vitamin C, about twice as much as an orange. That’s an antioxidant boost that will help you sleep.
Half a cup of pineapple comes in at just 40 calories and, although it’s a little high on sugars, it’s an abundant source of melatonin boosters.
You may know it as Nori – a wrap for sushi. Seaweed is chock-a-block full of melatonin, and at just 10 calories per sheet, delivers it virtually calorie free!
Whether they’re fresh or frozen, half a cup of raspberries at 30 calories provides just as much melatonin as cherries – and, unlike cherries they tend to be available most of the year.
These are a great source of melatonin but at almost 200 calories per ounce you may want to limit just how many you much on. Seven to eight halves should be enough to boost your melatonin and get you a better night’s sleep.
Eaten as cereal, or toast dusted with cinnamon, whole grains are a rich source of melatonin. Eaten an hour or so before bed a slice of cinnamon toast, at 100 calories, can help you settle into a deep, long, refreshing sleep.
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Angela Hobbs M.Ed. is an environmental sleep consultant and author of Sleep-Powered Wellness, published by Bold World Books.