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  • Dr. Nancy

Top 3 Foods to Support Sleep

Sleep has been an under-rated enhancer of health. Much to the chagrin of workaholics and those who like to burn the candle at both ends, sleep hygiene is a potent determinant of our health and health span.

Sleep is essential.

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 84 million Americans do not get enough sleep. Our society has become tired and wired.

Sleep deprivation can be the result of not allowing yourself enough time for sleep or insomnia. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that insomnia occurs in up to 50% of adults. 

Insomnia does not always mean that you are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all night while the rest of the world sleeps. It can, however, involve having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up frequently during the night, waking up too early, or waking up feeling unrefreshed.  With this broad encapsulation of symptoms, it is no wonder that fatigue is one of the more common complaints communicated during clinic visits.

Diet and lifestyle go a long way to support and improve your sleep hygiene so that you are getting the zzz’s that you need. Below is a food first approach to better sleep.

3 Top Foods to Improve Your Sleep


Eating a banana provides magnesium. This is a mineral that plays a lot of important roles in the body and it’s heavily linked to sleep. It helps to relax the muscles, which is really important for healthy sleep.

But that’s not the only reason why bananas could be your secret weapon at bedtime. They also contain serotonin and melatonin, both of which are also crucial for falling asleep quickly and naturally.

Slightly green bananas are also a good source of resistant starch and are considered a prebiotic. This means that bananas are not digested in your gut; instead, your gut bacteria process them. Resistant starches not only support healthy blood sugar and promote a healthy gut, they also improve sleep.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as spinach are yet another good source of magnesium. In addition, it is a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid, and vitamin B6 which work together to help you enjoy a deep, restorative sleep.

Of course, they have a lot more benefits than this but they’re another group of foods that can encourage sleep if you include them at dinnertime.


You can boost your “happy hormone”, serotonin, levels through salmon. It also boosts melatonin levels. Melatonin is often called “the sleep hormone”, which tells you an awful lot about what it can do for your sleep patterns!

Fatty fish in general ticks this box but studies have shown that salmon can help with falling asleep faster. Wild Alaskan salmon is your best bet for your nutritional dollar.

Other ways to support your sleep with food

Chamomile Tea

It’s not only foods that can promote good sleep; some drinks can too. Chamomile tea is one of them thanks to its apigenin content. This is an antioxidant that binds itself to receptors in the brain and can make you feel sleepier.

Tart Cherries

Tart cherries have been found to have above-average concentrations of melatonin. This is the hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythm and promote healthy sleep. Tart cherries may also have an antioxidant effect that is conducive to sleep.

The best tart cherries include Richmond, Montmorency, and English morello. These cherries can also be consumed as tart cherry juice.

Eat Some Complex Carbs With Supper

This might ruffle some keto feathers! However, one of the reasons the body releases stress hormones is to help release stored sugar so it can be used. Stress hormones are also sleep disruptors. By giving your body more complex carbohydrates preemptively we can help reduce some stress.

Wild rice, sweet potatoes and non-starchy vegetables are great options to provide a carb boost without jeopardizing your blood sugar. Equally important is the impact that carbohydrates have on sleep may be influenced by what is consumed with them. Eating these carbs with tryptophan-rich protein make it easier for the tryptophan to reach the brain.

Don’t Eat Supper Too Late

Aim to have your last big meal of the day at least 3 hours before bedtime so that there is enough opportunity for digestion to take place. If you eat too late, you will still be digesting your food at bedtime and this makes sleep more difficult.

Quality sleep is essential for cellular repair and vitality. Poor sleeping habits, whether from conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia, or just erratic work schedules, have been linked to accelerated aging and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

Sleep is not a luxury. Rather, it is a necessity. Your body cannot heal or grow without ample quality and quantity of sleep. The duration and quality of sleep affects all of the organs, tissues and cells of the body. Mental function, digestion, hormonal balance, physical performance and immune system function are all influenced by sleep.

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