Some nights, sleep comes quickly and easily and before you even realize it, you’re drifting off to dreamland. Other nights, well, sleep is far more elusive. Whether you’re sweating the little details of an upcoming event, stressing over a big work project, worried about friends, family members, your pet, your kids, your partner, that weird sound the car started making the other day, or something else entirely, just about everyone experiences nights where they’re tossing and turning until the wee hours of morning because their brain won’t shut off for even a minute.
While it can be tempting to turn to medication, meditation, or just about anything someone suggests that will help you get a more restful night’s sleep, the answer to a more peaceful and revitalizing slumber may actually be in what you choose to eat — either earlier in the day or even as a bedtime snack. Certain foods can help you sleep sounder, so says science.
Rather than simply willing your body and brain to just rest already (and torturing yourself just a little bit in the process), fix yourself a little pre-sleep snack, change up your usual breakfast routine, or use the opportunity to branch out and try some new-to-you foods that you either haven’t eaten before or aren’t normally found taking up space on your weekly grocery list. Better, more restful sleep, plus a tasty snack. Win-win.
What is it that makes peanut butter a sleep-boosting food? Tryptophan, the very same amino acid that people claim causes them to feel a bit drowsy after an especially large Thanksgiving dinner (though that could just be the large amount of comfort food they just ingested).
Tryptophan is considered an essential amino acid, which means that your body doesn’t make it naturally on its own. Rather, you have to eat tryptophan-containing foods in order to get the amino acid, according to the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.
Many foods contain the sleep-boosting amino acid, including peanut butter (and peanuts), as noted by MedlinePlus. Peanut butter is a good source of protein, which can help your tummy feel full enough to lull you to sleep, as well. According to a YouBeauty nutrition advisor, when paired with a complex carbohydrate, such as whole wheat crackers or a slice of whole wheat bread, this is a pretty stellar bedtime snack.
Hummus is experiencing a bit of a boost in popularity as of late (well, really, it’s been trendy for a while, hasn’t it?) and as it turns out, eating some hummus with a bit of whole wheat pita could help you snooze a little better and wake up more rested.
The main ingredient in hummus — chickpeas — contains tryptophan, the amino acid you have to thank for making you sleepy. And the tahini that’s also a main ingredient in hummus? It’s made from sesame seeds, which are also a great source of tryptophan. Not only that, but it’s a one-two punch because researchers note tryptophan turns into 5-HTP, which releases serotonin, the hormone that helps you relax.
The whole wheat pita? It’s a good source of complex carbohydrates, which makes the snack a more well-rounded one.
Need a late-night snack to help fill your stomach and wind you down before crawling into bed? What about yogurt? According to the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, dairy products (including yogurt) contain tryptophan, which helps promote sleep, but also, as you likely know, are a good source of calcium.
“Calcium is effective in stress reduction and stabilization of nerve fibers, including those in the brain,” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, an internist and author of Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves, told Woman’s Day. That should help your brain slow down enough to let you sleep.
While definitely not the typical bedtime snack, peas are a great choice as a vegetable side dish that can help promote healthy and productive sleep. According to an article from SFGate, peas contain pantothenic acid, which helps your body produce acetylcholine for healthy brain activity during sleep, and helps your body produce melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle.
Green peas are a summery treat, while split peas can be slowly coaxed into a velvety soup in the cooler months. Either can help boost your slumber later on that night.
Lentils are related to peas (among other yummy and good for you foods), so it may not be super surprising that they can help you sleep better.
According to Cooking Light, lentils are yet another good source of tryptophan — the amino acid that helps promote slumber — which is why you’ll doze off a little easier and sleep a little sounder after polishing off a bowl of soup or salad studded with ultra-healthy lentils.