You’ve tried it all: sleep meditation apps, a melatonin supplement, powering off your smartphone before bed, chamomile tea and counting sheep. But nothing seems to help you sleep deeply throughout the night.
Have you tried fine-tuning your diet to include sleep-promoting foods? Along with getting plenty of exercise and other stress-management techniques, nutrition plays one of the largest roles in sleep quality. Most articles about the best foods for sleep include the usual suspects: milk, turkey, bananas, chicken, chamomile tea, etc.
But many of these common foods, despite possibly helping you initially fall asleep, aren’t that very good for you. Dairy is one of the most common food allergens; turkey and chicken, if not raised in organic, open pastures may contain hormones; and bananas can cause insulin spikes. (Nothing wrong with chamomile, so drink up.)
Unusual Foods That May Promote Restful Sleep
If you struggle with sleep quality, in addition to getting regular exercise; controlling your stress levels; powering off smartphones, TVs and laptops one hour before bed; and going to sleep at the same time every night (no later than midnight), consume these “weird” foods on a regular basis for a couple weeks. You may find that they will help support your sleep quality…
Barley grass powder contains a high concentration of gamma-aminobutyric acid, better known as GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps promote relaxation and sleep. In addition, barley grass contains other nutrients that help promote sleep, including calcium, magnesium and B vitamins.
--> Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for sleep quality. But due to poor soil quality and over-farming, most people are deficient in macro and trace minerals. This is the easiest way to get your daily dose of health-supporting trace minerals.
But it’s the exceptional GABA content that makes barley grass especially beneficial for sleep support. Your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock circuit) depends on GABA signaling for sleep maintenance.
Some people fall asleep easily but have trouble staying asleep. GABA is critical for staying asleep during the second half of the night, according to this study. Other research has revealed that a decline in GABA receptor signaling in the brain triggers hyperactive sleep disorders.
It’s true that natural health devotees have known about adaptogenic herbs such as maca root for several years; adaptogens are one of the biggest health trends. And with stress levels at all-time highs, it makes sense that adaptogens have become more popular. Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress, hence the name of these special herbs.
You don’t have to be a doctor to understand how unresolved stress can lead to poor sleep quality. Adaptogens like maca have a bi-directional effect on organs in the body. This means that if you’re tired, adaptogens will stimulate organs that are underperforming, and for those organs that are working on overdrive (the adrenal glands for instance), adaptogens help mellow things out.
In a study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science, maca helped women overcome interrupted sleep attributed to hormonal changes of perimenopause.
Have you tried taking ganoderma lucidum for sleep? No, it’s not a sleep drug that will make you feel groggy when you wake up. Rather, it’s a fungus. Although “fungus” has a negative, or even unhealthy association with it (think: toenail fungus); edible mushrooms (mushrooms are fungi) are also considered stress-relieving adaptogenic herbs. Reishi is a traditional Chinese remedy that’s been used for centuries as an immune-supporting and natural mild tranquilizer for the mind.
Chinese medicine doctors often recommend formulas with reishi for sleeplessness. This ‘shroom contains 400 different bioactive compounds, many of which support sleep. In one study, the spores from reishi improved the sleep function of mice.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, suggests that eating cherries contributes to higher-sleep quality, and “may ... be used as a potential nutraceutical tool to prevent sleep disorders with the advancing of age.”
Tart cherry juice in particular has been shown to increase levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Another way tart cherries may improve sleep is by lowering inflammation and oxidative stress.
The reason why turkey is a popular sleep remedy is because it contains the amino acid, tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which in turn, is a precursor to melatonin. By eating foods rich in tryptophan, you’ll have more building blocks that convert into melatonin. But instead of feasting on turkey, try eating sources of pumpkin, whether it’s pumpkin seeds or sprouts.
Research in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine shows pumpkin seed oil is beneficial for sleep in a different way: preventing midnight trips to the bathroom. One reason sleep quality suffers is because of frequent urination. Pumpkin seed oil seems to be useful for an overactive bladder. After both six and 12 weeks of consuming pumpkin seed oil, the rate of late-night bathroom trips was significantly reduced.
Leafy Greens and Cruciferous Veggies
Green veggies aren’t unusual or weird. But many articles that discuss foods for sleep overlook them for slumber. Kale, parsley, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, and cabbage contain phytonutrients and fiber that have been shown to support sleep quality. All of these greens are also featured in Superfood Powder.
Matcha Green Tea
Can drinking caffeinated tea help promote sleep? Isn’t that counterintuitive? Yes and yes. Sure, drinking chamomile tea can help you wind down before bed. But by drinking matcha green tea during the day, your neurotransmitters and hormones that control sleep are getting nourished by the amino acid, L-theanine, which stimulates production of anxiety-reducing GABA neurotransmitters.
Studies such as this one in Pharmaceutical Biology demonstrate improved sleep duration from the combination of GABA and l-theanine. This amino acid has also been shown to improve sleep quality in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
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Sleep-Support Foods: Conclusion
There’s no guarantee that these superfoods will help you sleep like a baby. But by adopting holistic sleep hygiene habits (daily exercise, exposure to sunlight and the outdoors, regular bedtime hours before midnight, powering off Wifi and electronics before bed and limiting alcohol and sugar), these superfoods can help support sleep quality.
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