Having trouble sleeping? Incorporate these 5 nutrients that help you sleep into your diet

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million Americans suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year. Additionally, a 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Here are 5 nutrients that help you sleep to incorporate into your daily diet so you don’t have to be one of these people!

5 nutrients that help you sleep

You don’t need to wait to have turkey on Thanksgiving to incorporate foods with tryptophan into your diet. Lentils and white cannellini beans are great plant based sources of the sleep-inducing nutrient.

You don’t need to wait to have turkey on Thanksgiving to incorporate foods with tryptophan into your diet. Lentils and white cannellini beans are great plant based sources of the sleep-inducing nutrient.

A University of Pennsylvania study found that people who reported the healthiest sleep patterns also had the most varied diets.

If you’re in a food – and insomnia – rut, try switching up what you’re eating by incorporating these 5 nutrients that help you sleep into your daily regimen. It could make a big difference in your ability to sleep throughout the night and, in turn, your overall health and wellness.

Selenium

What it is: Found in soil and the ocean, selenium is an important micronutrient in which many Americans are deficient. Selenium is essential to our thyroid function and hormone production. A trace mineral, we don’t need a lot of it to fulfill our dietary needs.

Where to find it: Brazil nuts are great sources of selenium. About 3 ounces of tuna, cod, chicken breast or beef can fulfill our dietary needs for selenium. Grains, such as oats, are also good sources, but have lower selenium contents than meat and poultry sources.

Tryptophan

What it is: Famous for making us sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal, tryptophan is the nutrient in turkey and many other common foods that studies show contribute to sleepiness. A powerful amino acid, research shows that tryptophan brings on sleep by raising levels of serotonin.

Where to find it: Some great sources of tryptophan include white beans, lentils, turkey, chicken, eggs, cheese, fish and milk. In fact, the old wive’s tale that warm milk can help us sleep may have some truth to it! You can also purchase L-tryptophan in the form of a dietary supplement.

Vitamin C

What it is: Some studies have found that people who have low levels of Vitamin C have more issues sleeping and are more prone to insomnia. Another essential nutrient for serotonin production, without enough Vitamin C, our bodies cannot convert tryptophan into serotonin. Therefore, it’s best to combine foods that are high sources of tryptophan with foods that are high in Vitamin C.

Where to find it: Vitamin C is easy to find and even easier to eat, as it’s ubiquitous in many foods you are likely already eating. Spinach, bananas, almonds, strawberries, citrus, kiwi and papaya are all great sources.

Potassium

What it is: If you’re able to fall asleep but have trouble staying asleep, eating a banana before you turn in for the night may help. Studies show that potassium can help people who have trouble staying asleep.

Where to find it: Although bananas have a reputation for being the king of potassium, there are plenty of other foods that have lower sugar levels and contain potassium. Leafy greens, squash, white beans, yogurt, avocados and mushrooms are all great sources.

Vitamin B6

What it is: A water-soluble nutrient that is part of the B vitamin family, Vitamin B6 acts as a coenzyme that breaks down carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It supports adrenal function, helps calm and maintain a healthy nervous system and is needed for key metabolic processes.

Where to find it: Complex carbohydrates and grains, legumes, spinach, bananas, milk, cheese, eggs, fish and sunflower seeds are all great sources of Vitamin B6.

12 sleep-inducing snacks

Bananas contain Vitamin B6, tryptophan, and potassium, all of which contribute to a great night’s sleep.

Bananas contain Vitamin B6, tryptophan, and potassium, all of which contribute to a great night’s sleep.

Toss that ice cream habit to the curb. If you’re having trouble sleeping, eating snacks that contain lots of sugar before you go to bed can contribute to nightmares, night sweats, interrupted sleep and more. Instead, try these sleep-friendly food combinations to satiate your hunger and help you fall – and stay – asleep:

Bananas + almond butter

Greek yogurt + strawberries

White bean hummus + whole wheat bread

Whole grain cereal + almond milk

Plain rice + warm milk

Kiwi + cottage cheese

Herbal tea + dried fruit

Avocado + yogurt + banana smoothie

Warm milk + cinnamon

Whole wheat crackers + almond butter

Avocado + whole wheat toast

Nuts + dried fruit

Tips for sleep-inducing eating

  • Avoid caffeine after 1 pm. A late-afternoon cup of coffee could impact your sleep.
  • Stay away from sugary and processed foods. Eat a variety of whole foods to support a long and restful night’s sleep.
  • Don’t overeat. When we overeat, our bodies need to work extra hard while we sleep to process food. Eat frequent, small meals and avoid overeating at dinner.
  • Be sure to get plenty of exercise and movement throughout the day. Getting just 30 minutes of exercise outside a day could transform your ability to fall and stay asleep.
  • Eat dinner at least three hours before going to sleep. If it’s been a late night at work and you are famished – and exhausted – stick to the snacks below to satiate your hunger.
  • If you’re in a late-night snacking habit but aren’t hungry, try to determine what is causing your cravings for a snack. 

Want more sleep hacks?

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Have you tried incorporating any of these nutrients that help you sleep?

Tried incorporating any of these nutrients that help you sleep? Have others we should try? We would love to hear in the comments section below!