A good night’s sleep is closely related to your overall health. Not only will it determine how well you feel the next day, it also affects your brain functions, weight management, and immune system. Some of us will drink a glass of milk when we have trouble falling asleep. Does it really help? What other foods may help you get better sleep?
Four bedtime foods for sleep
In addition to being delicious, kiwi has surprising health benefits. For four weeks, Taiwanese researchers offered 24 adults 2 kiwi fruits at bedtime. They found that participants fell asleep 42% more quickly, compared to those who didn’t eat anything. In addition, the participants’ total sleep time also increased by 13%. It seems that eating one to two kiwifruits at least one hour before bedtime has beneficial results.
Among common crunchy snack foods, almonds may be the best at improving sleep. Nutritionally, almonds contain high doses of a sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, as well as magnesium and calcium, both of which help to relax our muscles. One 2015 study found that rats fed almond extract slept better and for a longer period of time. Researchers concluded that almonds seemed to have sedative and hypnotic effects on rats. Despite no human studies have confirmed this effect, it doesn’t hurt for most people to snack on one ounce of almonds (roughly 23 pieces) before bedtime.
3. Chamomile tea
To most people, tea has a calming effect. In fact, chamomile herbal tea has been used to reduce anxiety. Recent scientific findings showed that tea may also improve sleep quality and combat insomnia. In 2011, US researchers studied adults who had been suffering from insomnia for more than 6 months. Compared to non-tea drinkers, these participants took chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days. Results showed that they were able to fall asleep 15 minutes quicker and woke up less often in the middle of the night. Another Taiwanese study in 2016 found that new mothers drinking chamomile tea for a period of two weeks saw an improvement in sleep quality and postpartum depression.
4. Tart cherry juice
In the previous article, we had discussed the potential health benefits of drinking tart cherry juice on sleep quality. Tart cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, a substance responsible for regulating our internal clock and sleep-wake cycle. A US study found that drinking tart cherry juice for 2 weeks may help people suffering from insomnia to extend their sleep time by an average of 84 minutes. Researchers believed that it’s the combination of anthocyanins and natural melatonin that may help improve sleep. As tart cherry juice is quite sour, it is often mixed with grape juice in bottled drinks; grapes also contain melatonin so it’s a good juice combination to try.
So, drinking warm milk before bedtime really work?
Cow’s milk contain a major sleep-promoting amino acid called tryptophan. Theoretically, tryptophan (also found in turkey, eggs, peanuts and other foods) produces serotonin - a calming neurotransmitter released in the brain, However, when milk was tested in scientific studies, it failed to affect sleep quality and patterns. Most experts agree that as most people grew up drinking milk as a bedtime routine, the calming effect may be a psychological one.
Gloria Tsang - Registered Dietitian