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Tired of counting sheep? Try these foods that help you sleep

Tired of counting sheep? Try these foods that help you sleep

If you’re all too familiar with what your bedroom ceiling looks like at 3 a.m., you may be one of millions of Americans struggling to get enough quality sleep. Can the solution really be as simple as eating more foods that help you sleep?

The truth is, you’ll probably also need to practice some other good habits to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. For best results, pair some foods known for promoting sleep with weight loss, regular exercise and relaxing activities such as meditation or reading.

No matter what, though, it’s definitely worth giving sleep-boosting foods a try as part of your sleep care routine.

Why quality sleep is important

Quality sleep is an essential component of good health. During your sleep cycle, your body goes through a number of processes to support optimal brain health, mental health and physical health. Think about it: When you don’t sleep well, you tend to not feel at your best.

In addition to affecting your memory and mood, lack of sleep can also increase your risk of many health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

Red light: Foods that can disrupt sleep

Before we talk about foods that are good for sleep, let’s first talk about some foods you may want to avoid—at least in the hours before bedtime.

You probably already know that you should limit your intake of caffeine in the afternoon and evening. That’s because caffeine is a known stimulant that can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

You may also want to limit your intake of alcoholic beverages. While a glass of wine with dinner may seem like a way of relaxing, alcohol can disrupt your sleep.

Also consider what you’re eating at dinner—acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus fruits can trigger acid reflux, and high-fat, heavy foods can keep your digestive system in overdrive while you try to fall asleep. Foods that have a high glycemic index, like those containing sugar, can also disrupt your sleep.

Green light: Foods that can help you sleep

At LCMC Health, we recommend aiming for a healthy diet that includes many different nutrients to create an optimal foundation for quality sleep. When thinking about what to have for dinner or a late-night snack, try these foods:

  • Certain types of nuts. Several kinds of nuts, including almonds and walnuts, may help promote sleep since they contain sleep-boosting nutrients like melatonin.
  • Fatty fish. It’s a good thing that fish is a normal part of our diet in NOLA! Fatty fish, including salmon and tuna, contain a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Paired together, those nutrients can regulate serotonin and improve sleep.
  • Milk. Dairy products, including milk and cheese, are a good source of melatonin, which can promote better sleep.
  • Tart cherry juice. Almost all cherries are a natural source of melatonin, but tart cherries contain high levels.

These foods may not be a cure-all for your sleep woes, but including them as a part of a healthy diet may help you get more z’s in the long run!

Still struggling to get the sleep you need? Schedule a primary care appointment with LCMC Health to talk through possible next steps.