Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Julia Haarhuis, Ellen M. Martin
Feeling tired throughout the day? Not able to focus on your work or conversation? These might be symptoms of poor sleep. Sleep deprivation commonly goes along with many diseases, but it may also nag otherwise healthy people. Symptoms of poor sleep are not always obvious, as some sleep-deprived people may spend more than the recommended minimum of 7 hours in bed.
If you want to learn more about whether you get enough sleep, you can read this article. In our previous blog post on how to naturally improve your sleep, we talked about different lifestyle changes you can make and therapies you can use to improve your sleep quality. In addition to this, diet plays an important role in the overall quality of your sleep. Certain foods can help promote sleep whereas other foods can impair sleep quality.
We have mentioned this before, and will mention this again: food matters! In our ebook about Food Therapy we guide you to take control of your chronic inflammatory or autoimmune disease by managing your diet. So, it will probably not surprise you that food also affects your sleep quality. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) accredited Sleep Education recommends not consuming large meals or caffeine before bedtime (1). In addition to foods to avoid before bed time, there are certain foods that promote the quality of your sleep. In the next paragraphs we will provide you all the information you need to be sound asleep tonight!
A Glass of Milk and a Cup of Chamomile Tea
You might have heard before that a glass of milk before bed time will make you sleep like a log. It is true that milk contains an amino acid, tryptophan, that will make you more sleepy once the protein is absorbed. However, the process of absorption and transformation of the amino acid to be effective takes some hours, so a glass of milk right before you go to bed might not make a big contribution to your sleep.
Another drink that is known to promote sleep, is chamomile tea. In a scientific article, researchers indicated that the consumption of herbal products, such as chamomile tea, prior to bedtime improves sleep quality and decreases the number of waking episodes during the night (2). The flavonoid apigenin that is present in chamomile tea has mild sedative functions (3). It may be worth trying to see if these drinks work for you!
Tryptophan, Pyroxidine (Vitamin B) and Magnesium
Additionally, research suggests eating foods high in the amino acid tryptophan if you want to improve sleep quality. The explanation behind this is a little more scientific, so hold on and we will guide you through the science behind these sleep-promoting foods! Tryptophan-rich foods promote sleep quality because tryptophan is used in the synthesis of the sleep-promoting hormones melatonin and serotonin. To synthesize these hormones from tryptophan, our bodies also need the help of one of the B vitamins, pyridoxine. In addition, magnesium plays a role in enhancing the secretion of melatonin (2). Take into account that a large increase in magnesium might interfere with deficiency of other minerals, like calcium or zinc, because it competes with these other minerals for absorption (4).
Besides sleep-promoting functions, many of these compounds have other beneficial health effects. In our article about vitamins and minerals, we talk about this. Take a look at graphic 1 to better understand the role of pyridoxine and magnesium in overall body health.
But which foods contain these nutrients? Well, there are a whole bunch of foods to add to the list! The following foods contain one or more of these sleep-promoting nutrients: nuts and seeds, soya food, chicken, fish, wheat germ and whole oats, beans and lentils, cheese, and eggs. We already mentioned some of these foods in previous articles about managing your autoimmune disease using Food Therapy.
Your diet can be a key factor in enhancing your sleep! By including these sleep-promoting foods in your diet, you might improve your sleep. Let us know which foods you usually consume to promote your sleep and which changes you are going to implement in your diet – we’d love to hear this in your comments below!
- Sleep Education. Healthy Sleep Habits. Last visited on July 8th, 2019, http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits
- Peuhkuri, K., Sihvola, N., & Korpela, R. (2012). Diet promotes sleep duration and quality. Nutrition research, 32(5), 309-319.
- Srivastava, J. K., Shankar, E., & Gupta, S. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), 895-901.
- NIH. (2019). Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved 19 July, 2019, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/