It’s no secret sleep is important, but let’s be honest: Sometimes, falling asleep can be really difficult. You toss and turn (and toss some more), only to get lost in a sea of cat videos and pandemic memes. Luckily, though, it’s possible to fine-tune your sleep routine by way of diet. Start with these 5 best foods for sleep, as recommended by dietitians.
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When it comes to sleep, carbs get a bad rap—but not all carbs are equal. “Complex carbohydrates can improve sleep [because they help make] serotonin, which regulates the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle,” says Erin Kenney, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., H.C.P. For a quick complex carb snack, reach for whole grains like “air-popped popcorn, oatmeal with cinnamon and berries, [and] whole grain toast with nut butter,” suggests Kenney.
Need a night cap? Drink cherry juice instead of booze. A 2020 article in the Journal of Food Science shares that it contains melatonin, a.k.a. the “sleep hormone.” It also increase tryptophan, according to a 2018 study, which is needed to make serotonin.
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If you eat meat, add fatty fish to your dinner menu. It “promotes sleep by providing vitamin B6, which is necessary for melatonin production,” explains Trista Best, M.P.H., R.D., L.D., registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. Salmon and tuna are ideal choices, she says, but it’s best to avoid frying them because the excess oil can cause heartburn and mess with your sleep. Try poached or baked fish instead.
According to Kenney, nuts contain magnesium, a mineral that increases levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA inhibits cells that keep you awake, making it easier to slip into a slumber. Almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts are especially rich in magnesium, notes Kenney.
As probiotics balance the microbes in your gut, they can also help you snooze. These live bacteria release neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin, according to a 2018 article in Frontiers in Psychiatry. You can find them in foods like “yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and sauerkraut,” says Kenney.
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