Today we’re going to talk about how to sleep better; specifically foods that help you sleep better. How you eat, especially before bed, can help you turn down the energy a bit and prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. All you need to know is what to put on the menu in the evenings and maybe what foods to avoid if you want to have a late night. No one wants to fall asleep in the middle of date night, right?
Everyone knows that turkey dinners knock out half the family into an after-meal nap, but did you know it’s the tryptophan in turkey that helps you start to feel sleepy? And tryptophan is actually in a lot of different things, not just turkey? And melatonin – you’ve heard of that stuff too – is in some foods as well? You can incorporate foods easily into your diet to help you find a better night’s sleep, naturally.
Our Sleepy-Menu Plan for Today’s Blog Post
- L-tryptophan: What it is and how to get more of it into your diet
- Melatonin: What that is, how it helps you sleep, and how to get more of it into your system
- CBD: How this can help and how to work CBD into your diet
- Other foods that help you sleep
- Some super-fab sleepy-time recipes you’ll love!
Note: L-tryptophan is commonly called tryptophan. We use L-tryptophan and tryptophan interchangeably for the sake of this article.
Everyone wants to know how to sleep better. When it comes to foods that help you sleep, one enzyme is the most well-known for its somewhat entertaining way of wiping out half the attendees at Thanksgiving each year. Yes, the turkey! With all that magical L-tryptophan. We hear about it every year, it seems, but how much do you really know about what it actually is? What it does in your body? How L-tryptophan could be the key ingredient for foods that help you sleep through the night?
Let’s look at what this stuff really is and how it might help you to sleep better and get you some menu items to add to your shopping list this week.
What is L-Tryptophan?
Remember all the house-wifey 50s shows and the royal families living in castles and all those other folks who’d say, “You can’t sleep? Here, I’ll make you some warm milk?” Now, I don’t know how often people are drinking warm milk these days, but it turns out the farmers and grandmas of yesteryear were onto something big.
It turns out that milk has an essential amino acid (L-tryptophan), “essential,” meaning that the human body doesn’t produce it. So to get it into your system, you must consume it from the foods, beverages, etc., that you take in.
L-Tryptophan was first found in a protein called casein, which is from, you guessed it, milk. This discovery in the early 1900s confirmed that there truly was something going on with all that warm milk. What we know now is that L-tryptophan is in a lot of different foods.
How Does L-Tryptophan Help You to Sleep Better?
Although all the factors and pieces of information are there, the scientific studies on L-tryptophan are insufficient to make a bold claim that it helps you to sleep, puts you to sleep, or that it works for everyone. The best thing to do is observe your own body after a nice meal containing L-tryptophan and see if it helps you to sleep better (like those Thanksgiving nappers!).
Many scientists believe that L-tryptophan affects the production of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), a mood-stabilizing neurotransmitter (some call it a hormone) in your brain that helps to regulate your moods, appetite, and other important bodily functions. When you consume foods that contain L-tryptophan, your body then converts some of the tryptophan into 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) and then into serotonin.
L-tryptophan may also help the body naturally make melatonin, another crucial component in how to sleep better and regulate your sleep patterns. L-tryptophan may also help your body produce niacin, vitamin B3, and vitamin B6 (nicotinamide), which helps your body with healthy and regular sleep.
For Foods Help You to Sleep: L-Tryptophan Foods for Your Menu
We all know our own bodies, and it’s pretty easy to make a mental note after eating certain foods to see how those foods affect us.
Try adding these foods to your list of potential evening foods that help you get better sleep at night:
- Dairy foods: Milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese
- Nuts: Peanuts, almonds
- Seeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Dried dates
- Red meat
Another component of foods that help you sleep is melatonin, a natural hormone produced in the body. You can also find melatonin-rich foods to add to your diet to help you find a better night’s rest.
What is Melatonin?
The natural hormone melatonin is produced in a pea-sized pineal gland which is located in your brain. This hormone helps your body know when it is time to be awake and when to be asleep, thus helping to regulate a healthy sleep cycle, your body’s circadian rhythm. For many different reasons, and some we don’t quite understand, some people’s bodies may not produce enough melatonin, which can disrupt your ability to fall asleep at night. Melatonin production can also decline with age, leading to late-night restlessness and that dreadful “tossing and turning.”
How Does Melatonin Help You to Sleep Better?
Once the light begins to dim (with the setting sun), your body begins to produce more melatonin. Today, light is an issue because we watch television or use our phones and computers even after the sun goes down. We have lights on in our homes. All this light tricks the body into thinking it’s still time to be awake. Aside from turning all of that off, you can also add more melatonin into your diet in the evenings to help tell your body it’s time to wind down.
Since melatonin is the body’s trigger for sleeping, we must get enough of it when we need it. What foods help you sleep are the ones that often contain a bit of melatonin.
For Foods Help You to Sleep: Melatonin Foods for Your Menu
- Cherries (tart cherry juice)
- Goji berries
- Nuts (pistachios and almonds have the highest amounts)
- Oily fish like sardines and salmon
For foods that help you sleep, you may not be thinking of CBD, likely because it’s not something you just pick up at the grocery store. But CBD is an excellent thing to add to your diet regularly. You can take it daily as a tincture, morning and night; you can also take a CBD tincture with melatonin at night. But you can also add it into your regular diet via some super-fab recipes! Let’s talk a bit about CBD and how it can help.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, CBD, is a derivative of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Many people take it for general health and wellness benefits and as a way to help them feel calmer in the evenings, particularly before bed. It can be worked into various recipes, taken orally, or even vaped to get the benefits of CBD. Most sources of CBD select to eliminate the THC in the production of CBD products, so you get the benefits without the effects of THC.
How Does CBD Help You to Sleep Better?
The relationship between CBD and sleep is not fully understood. Research studies are on the rise and continuing, but if you look at any of the reviews on popular CBD products, you’ll see a lot of talk about improved sleep. These personal testimonies are why CBD has grown exponentially in popularity and use for the past few years, even for our pets.
The best thing to do is try a few different CBD products (the ones that go into your system, not just topical applications) and see how it helps you maintain your healthy sleep cycle. It does affect everyone a little differently, so what works well for your neighbor may not be the right form or serving size that works for you.
If you are interested in trying CBD products and are hoping they’ll help with your sleeping, you’ll want to try products such as these:
- CBD with melatonin
- CBD tinctures without melatonin
- CBD gummies before bed
For Foods Help You to Sleep: CBD Recipes for Your Menu List
Now, let’s talk about the really fun stuff – CBD recipes that you can whip up in your kitchen! This section is a fairly new feature to our blog, and we hope you love the delicious recipes. To get more CBD into your diet in a fun way that helps you to bring on the calm, try a few of these tasty recipes!
- CBD lemonade: For a nice alternative to those sleep-disrupting caffeinated drinks, try our CBD-infused lemonade. It’s a refreshing and tasty way to chill out for the evening.
- Try CBD butter in place of your regular butter on a slice of toast or a roll at your evening meal for a calmer way to butter up your evening.
- Some CBD coconut oil could be the very thing that makes your boring chicken dinner have a little more flavor. (Add a little essential oil of lavender and use it for a hair mask or add it to your bath for even more evening relaxation!)
- Avocado is a good source of Vitamin B6, so roll up your sleeves and make some CBD guacamole to add a touch of flavor to your evening meal.
- For a healthy smoothie in the evenings, try our Mean Greens CBD Smoothie recipe, which has fresh leafy greens and banana for a power-packed smoothie to wind down your day.
Other Foods That Help You Sleep (and Some to Avoid!)
There are other foods you can try to get a better night’s sleep. Sleeping better could be right around the corner with these other foods to try and some you need to avoid.
Carbs send a boost of blood sugar into your system to help you have better sleep. Carbs that rank lower on the Glycemic Index (GI) may be better for your overall sleep because they are minimally processed, complex carbs. Try adding these foods into your evening diet:
- Whole-grain crackers
- Fresh fruit
- Jasmine or long-grain rice (note: long grain has a lower Glycemic Index than jasmine rice)
- On Health recommends that you combine a good carb with a source of L-tryptophan or melatonin for best results
Foods that Contain Magnesium
Magnesium may play an important role in aiding your natural sleep processes. This mineral can be found in several foods and beverages:
- Dry beans
- Whole grains
- Wheat germ
- Oat bran
Here’s a good list of how much magnesium you can find in many foods: Magnesium-Rich Food
Foods that Contain Calcium
It is believed that calcium aids L-tryptophan in melatonin production, so eating calcium-enriched foods at bedtime can be good. Here are some of the best sources of calcium, an important mineral for your health:
- Dairy products such as milk and cheese
- Tart cherry juice
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fish with soft, edible bones like salmon or canned sardines
- Calcium-enriched foods like breakfast cereals and fruit juices
- Soy and tofu (when fortified)
Foods that Contain Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
The jury is still out on vitamin B6 and its relationship to better sleep. While studies are ongoing, you may want to be sure you get enough vitamin B6 in your diet anyway since it is good for your body to have this critical vitamin. Here are foods to help get the vitamin B6 your body needs:
- Ricotta cheese
- Chicken liver
- Green peas
- Sweet potatoes
What to Avoid Consuming Before You Go to Sleep
While yes, foods can help you sleep, there are also some things you really need to avoid before you turn down the covers and climb into bed. For one, turn down the lights and avoid using your television, phone, or laptop, as these extra sources of light can trick your body into producing less melatonin.
You should also avoid caffeine, which stimulates the mind and body and can disrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol, which seems like it helps you get sleepy, can actually lower your quality of sleep. Dark chocolate can also be a sleep-disrupting culprit and spicy foods, overly fatty foods, and sugary junk foods.
Foods that Help You Sleep + CBD Recipes
Here at cbdMD, we feel that a combination of foods that help you sleep through the night, plus CBD, plus some healthy routines at bedtime, are a winning combination to help you sleep better. Sleep is essential to our overall health; it’s so important that we have dedicated an entire section of our blog to help you get better sleep. For more tips on how to sleep better and other helpful health and wellness topics, follow our blog!