Medically reviewed by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Having trouble sleeping? These melatonin foods will provide help sleeping. Try this nutritionist-approved sleep diet today!
I'm always getting questions about what is OK (and what's not!) to eat at night, as well as what foods can help with falling asleep and staying asleep.
Are you feeling sleep deprived lately? Do you lie awake for more than 20 minutes before falling asleep?
In addition to how you feel, getting poor sleep or having sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can make losing weight difficult and can cause other health issues. If you're having trouble sleeping, read on for sleep diet tips. I promise I'm not going to tell you to drink a glass of warm milk!
A Nutrition Trick to Provide Help Sleeping
Turns out what you eat can have a big effect on sleep quality. In a study in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers looked at the diet and sleep habits of 26 adults.
Volunteers who ate foods with less fiber, and more saturated fat and sugar experienced lower quality sleep. These people spent increased time in lighter sleep stages and woke up more often.
Not sure how much fiber, saturated fat, and sugar you should be eating? Use these pointers.
Women need between 21 and 25 grams of fiber daily, and men need between 30 and 38 grams. To put that in perspective, a serving of high-fiber cereal contains between 9 and 14 grams, a ½ cup of beans has 6 to 9 grams, and a medium apple offers 4 grams.
The most recent dietary guidelines recommend capping added sugar at 1% of daily calories. For a 1,500-calorie daily diet, that’s 150 calories of sugar—the equivalent of about nine teaspoons of sugar or seven teaspoons of honey or agave syrup.
Wondering how much added sugar is in common beverages? A can of soda has about 150 calories from sugar, and a tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino contains about 170 calories worth of sugar.
Saturated fat should also be capped at 10% of daily calories, according to the dietary guidelines. Per a 1,500-calorie daily diet, that’s about 17 grams of saturated fat, or the amount in three hamburgers or four pork sausage links.
According to research, the majority of saturated fat comes from mixed dishes, such as burgers and pizzas.
Foods to Improve Your Sleep
Guess what? There are a handful of superfoods out there that contain sleep-helping nutrients like melatonin and tryptophan. Here's the short list of these foods, which can help improve your sleep cycle.
I'm about to tell you about melatonin- and tryptophan-rich foods, which can help alleviate sleep problems. By the way, did you know that your melatonin levels and your serotonin levels are directly linked?
These red gems of a vegetable supply melatonin, which helps regulate your internal clock and is helpful in promoting sleep. I enjoy slicing cherry or grape tomatoes in half, then drizzling them with extra-virgin olive oil. Guess what? The oil also provides melatonin!
2. Sunflower Seeds
This crunchy snack offers tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps your body create melatonin. The seeds also supply filling fiber and healthy fats, which help curb your hunger for longer.
3. Dried Tart Cherries
Hello, sleep-helping fruit! Dried tart cherries supply melatonin, a hormone in your body that helps regulate your sleep-and-wake cycle and may boost sleep efficiency.
4. Tart Cherry Juice
As with dried tart cherries, tart cherry juice provides melatonin. Regularly drinking tart cherry juice may increase sleep time!
The nut provides melatonin. Almonds also supply protein, healthy fat, and fiber—all nutrients that help you stay fuller for longer. You can have a Tablespoon or two of almonds, or mix almond butter into almond butter protein balls.
6. Chamomile Tea
This herbal tea may help your shut-eye. In a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, postpartum women regularly drinking chamomile tea daily for two weeks noticed short-term sleep benefits.
If you're adding these melatonin- and tryptophan-rich foods and drinks to your diet and are still having sleep problems, consider re-thinking your sleep hygiene. Make sure you don't have any bright lights or loud noises in your bedroom, for instance.
This blog post was updated in August 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep,
- Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
- Nutrition and Healthy Eating,
- Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020, Appendix 13. Food Sources of Dietary Fiber,
- Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020, Executive Summary,
- Effects of an Intervention with Drinking Chamomile Tea on Sleep Quality and Depression in Sleep Disturbed Postnatal Women: a Randomized Controlled Trial, Journal of Advanced Nursing
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I'd love to hear from you! What are your favorite foods for helping you sleep?
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