Are you tossing and turning throughout the night? Watching the clock creep slowly toward the time the alarm is scheduled to go off? Does sleep seem impossible to attain? You're not the only one. This is a reality for plenty of people who deal with the agony of insomnia as they struggle to fall asleep each night. And in some cases, their diet is to blame.
Sheila Flynn Towson, DNP, a registered nurse and dietitian, says that 35% of Americans suffer from insomnia—a sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
It's common knowledge that with better sleep comes better health, but did you know that the food you eat can impact it? Check out some of our suggestions for food hacks to improve your sleep. And for more helpful tips, check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Snack on some kiwi.
Kiwi, along with other seemingly tropical fruit, seems like the kind of fruit that should be enjoyed on a tropical vacation. But it can also take them to the beach of their dreams, literally, as kiwis are one of the top foods to help lead to a full night of sleep.
Towson recommends eating two kiwis an hour before bedtime to have a truly great night of sleep.
A study from Taipei Medical University linked subjects who consumed kiwis before bed with sleeping longer and having more efficient sleep. If you don't like kiwi on its own, you could mix it in with this Kiwi, Cucumber, and Mango Salsa.
Don't go light on the turkey.
It's not just the excessive amount of family time that's tiring you out on Thanksgiving—it's what you're piling on top of your plate as well. Turkey is well-known for tiring eaters out, so stay clear if you're planning on staying up for Black Friday deals, but if a restful night of sleep is what you're looking for, look no further.
"Turkey gets people very sleepy after Thanksgiving," says Towson. This is due to turkey being packed with tryptophan, a nutrient that increases serotonin levels in the body leading to a feeling of drowsiness.
Have the right kind of tea.
A nice cup of tea is a good way to start the morning, and also an efficient way to end the night if you're hoping for long-lasting sleep. There are many brands of tea marketed toward helping consumers fall asleep, but Towson says there are four types of tea that stick out to aid slumber.
Passion flower tea contains several flavonoids, which have been proven to prolong sleeping time, according to a South China University of Technology study. Lemon Balm tea, Valerian tea, and Hops tea are also good for helping to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep.
Say no to tomatoes.
Tomatoes seem to go perfectly with so many dinners, especially pasta dishes. But those delicious bursts of flavor may be causing painful bursts of heartburn later in the night.
Like other acidic foods, tomatoes are a big cause of heartburn, and if eaten with dinner that heartburn can lead to you clutching your chest in the middle of the night and running to the cabinet for Tums.
The same even goes for ketchup. Towson recommends against having french fries for dinner or a late-night snack in general, she said it's even worse to pair them with ketchup.
Cereal's not just for breakfast.
Cereal—one of the most iconic breakfast foods can also be eaten throughout the day, especially as a snack before bed to help fall asleep. According to Towson, a low-sugar cereal that's rich in carbohydrates can help to absorb tryptophan and convert it to serotonin, which aids in sleep.
But she warns against having sugary cereal, it's best to have cereals with under five grams of sugar per serving before bed, otherwise the sugar will keep you tossing and turning. So make sure to steer clear of these Unhealthiest Cereals on the Planet.
Make sure to have the cereal with skim milk rather than whole, as skim is more easily digestible and will lead to better sleep.
Say goodbye to late-night wine.
Sometimes a glass of wine, or two, or however many (we're not here to judge) seems like the ideal way to wrap up a night, but if deep sleep is what you want then the wine is not the answer.
"Any kind of alcohol will drop your blood sugar in the middle of the night," Towson says. "Beer is the same way—it makes you urinate a lot, it causes dehydration and muscle cramps." Here's What Happens When You Drink a Glass of Wine Every Night.
If you're looking for an alternative nightcap, Towson suggests kombucha.
Make a bedtime smoothie.
While some drinks before bed will do nothing but harm your sleep, a smoothie, loaded with ingredients that will help to boost serotonin levels, can do nothing but help. Towson has two smoothie recipes that she recommends, including one that consists of bananas, kale, and almonds.
"Almonds are good because they have a high calcium level," Towson says. "High calcium helps to relax muscles, and it also converts tryptophan to melatonin."
She also recommends a bedtime smoothie made from raw spinach, bananas, and almond milk.
"Bananas have high potassium and high magnesium help to relax muscles," Towson says.
Take natural supplements.
While plenty of foods have sleep-inducing hormones (melatonin and serotonin) within them, sometimes one of the easiest ways to get a dose is by taking them as supplements.
Bottles of the supplements are available at most grocery stores and pharmacies and can help sleep, according to Bernadette Judge, RN of Nupeutics Health.
"Take natural supplements to help ease the mind and fall asleep faster," says Judge.
Stock up on whole grains.
Have you noticed your friends taking up bread baking as a hobby in the past several months? While taking pictures of perfectly-crafted and well-risen loaves to post on Instagram is a fun pastime, and eating bread is always delicious, it serves another purpose as well.
According to a study from the Ziauddin University Hospital, whole grains "strongly impact sleep quality," as whole grains contain a range of nutrients that impact sleep, including magnesium, which helps to relax muscles.
Toss some tarragon on your food.
Paris might be the city of lights, but those lights aren't keeping Parisians awake with all of the tarragon that is essential in French cooking. Tarragon, an herb found throughout Europe and North America, is commonly used to season chicken, fish, and egg dishes. It's also the main source of flavoring in Béarnaise sauce.
The artemisia group of plants, of which tarragon is one, has been proven to improve sleep quality by providing a sedative effect.
Cherry dessert is the way to go.
Ice cream, cake, and other sugary desserts are a bad call for those who want to have a restful night of sleep, but that doesn't mean all dessert is off of the table.
Try a low-sugar dessert (like one of these 73+ Best Healthy Dessert Recipes), especially one that has cherries in it, according to Towson.
"Cherries have a natural melatonin content, which signals to the body that it's time to go to bed," says Towson. "A good cherry dessert is very good for sleep."
Make sure to eat your leafy greens.
We all know eating leafy greens is good for our overall health and should be eaten regularly as part of dinner. Did you also know that eating leafy greens—whether it be kale, microgreens, cabbage, swiss chard, or any other option—is also great for catching more than a few zzz's at the end of the night?
"Strive to eat a diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins," Judge says. "B vitamins help to regulate melatonin, a hormone that works to regulate your sleep cycles."
So when putting together your dinner plate, don't skimp on the salad. Instead, incorporate even more of it into your dinner a few hours before bedtime, leaving enough time to start digestion.
Save coffee and soda for the morning and afternoon.
Towson says that the caffeine found in coffee and soda can take effect in the body for eight to 14 hours, so if you're a coffee drinker, make sure it's mornings only.
Speaking of soda, you're probably going to want to read up on 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are.