Nutrition for Better Sleep

When it comes to your sleep, your body needs a certain kind and specific amount of nutrients to support the creation of your sleep hormones and activity of these hormones. There are a few things to consider when incorporating foods into your diet for a more restful night’s sleep.

1. Quality Proteins

Protein, when broken down in the body, becomes amino acids that each have a specific job to do. In terms of sleep, tryptophan is a key amino acid because it supports serotonin levels in the body that can later become melatonin.  Things like turkey and pumpkin seeds can be helpful here.

When it comes to the amount of protein, finding a happy medium that is right for your body can support a healthy deep sleep. It has been found that too little protein can cause issues with sleep quality while too much can lead to trouble falling asleep.

The best way to determine what is right for you? Look to the size of your palm. Typically, you want your protein serving at each meal to be the size of your palm. But there are always exceptions! For example, after your exercise, your body needs and craves extra protein to aid in muscle recovery—try doubling the amount of protein you eat in that meal immediately following a workout.

2. Low Inflammatory Fats 

Now here’s a kicker—your inflammatory response affects sleep quality AND your sleep quality affects your inflammatory response. One way to combat the disruption of this cycle is to support your natural pathways, starting at the cellular level. To do this, you want to think about your cell membranes. They let certain nutrients pass into and out of the cell, and the type of fat you eat can aid in your body’s natural function to pass nutrients properly. Some great options include fatty fish, cod liver oil, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados. 

3. Balanced Blood Sugar 

There is no way around it—A high intake of sugar can lead to a cascade of not so friendly events happening in the body. Sweet treats are a part of life, but high daily intake leads to issues with your blood sugar levels. This can cause a state of stress on your body and rob your cells of the very nutrients that you need for healthy sleep!

Moreover, your body goes on a high-speed roller coaster ride trying to control the sugar levels in your body. When your sugar intake is high, drops in blood sugar are high and, overnight, this looks like you waking frequently or having a hard time falling asleep.

4. Support Melatonin Production 

As I have mentioned previously, when you eat tryptophan-containing foods this can support your body’s production of serotonin and melatonin. One way to support this process beyond eating tryptophan-rich protein is to include a complex carb with the meal such as root vegetables, beans or whole grains. When you do this, you give tryptophan a fighting chance to travel successfully to your brain where transforms to serotonin, then melatonin.

5. Magnesium Rich Foods

Magnesium is a very valuable mineral for the body. It is involved in many crucial processes such as supporting your blood sugar, helping your cells create energy and most importantly - for the topic of sleep support – in promoting better neurotransmitter activity.

Magnesium can become easily depleted from the body from things like caffeine, sugar, stress, and digestive irregularities, and is also helpful for creating GABA (shorthand for the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in our central nervous system—aka the amino acid that helps block certain nerve transmissions in the brain).

To better support your magnesium levels, consider adding whole grains, dark-green leafy vegetables, and even more yogurt into your diet!

6. B-Vitamin-Rich Foods

When it comes to vitamins and sleep, B-vitamins are the primary drivers that help your natural hormone levels involved in sleep. They are also crucial for supporting your cells’ ability to use the food you eat and convert that into usable energy. When your levels are low, your cells are not able to perform their jobs as efficiently leading to disruptions in the functions of your organs and signals your body needs to work optimally.