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Craving quality sleep? Eat this, not that.

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Do you ever lie awake at night, tossing and turning, without the faintest idea of why? 

Stress and anxiety are well-known sleep disrupters, but did you know the food you eat can increase the stress hormones in your body and mind? 

Foods can significantly influence your sleep quality due to their nutritional content and how they affect your body’s hormones and neurotransmitters. Some foods can promote relaxation and help you fall asleep more easily, while others can disrupt sleep patterns. 

Let’s take a closer look at some foods that are known to increase your chances of a good night’s sleep. 

8 Foods that help you sleep

Girl holds a paper plate with healthy food sitting on the floor. Home delivery food. Healthy eating concept.

Stock up on these eight types of food—most of which are both healthy and delicious—and incorporate them into your meal schedule if you’re looking to improve your sleep

1. Almonds and walnuts: These nuts contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, and magnesium, which may improve sleep quality by reducing inflammation and stress levels.

2. Turkey and chicken: High in tryptophan, an amino acid that increases the production of serotonin, which is your body’s natural “feel-good” chemical that helps regulate mood, anxiety, and happiness. The tryptophan is then converted to melatonin in the brain. Tryptophan is the reason you feel so sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner. 

3. Cherries and cherry juice: Another one of the few natural food sources of melatonin, which can help regulate sleep cycles.

4. Fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel): Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which have been shown to increase serotonin production, supporting a healthy sleep cycle.

5. Milk and dairy products: Many of these foods contain tryptophan and calcium. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin.

6. Kiwi: High in antioxidants and serotonin, which may help improve sleep onset, duration, and quality. Plus, they’re delicious and make a great healthy dessert. 

7. Bananas: Provide magnesium and potassium, which help relax muscles and nerves, and contain tryptophan.

8. Oats: A source of melatonin and complex carbohydrates, which can help more tryptophan get into the brain.

Do you notice anything in common among these foods? Tryptophan and melatonin are your best friends when you’re trying to fall asleep.

5 Foods that may disrupt sleep

Happy older woman drinking a mug of coffee on her couch

On the other hand, the food you eat can also affect your ability to fall and stay asleep. Here are five foods you should avoid. 

1. Caffeinated foods and beverages (coffee, tea, chocolate): No surprise here—caffeine can block sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increase adrenaline production. Your body needs roughly 10-12 hours to rid itself of the effects of caffeine fully, so plan accordingly. 

2. Spicy foods: These can cause heartburn or indigestion, making it harder to fall asleep. There are few things worse than a poor night’s sleep on top of stomach pain and indigestion.

3. High-fat and fried foods: Digesting these can be hard on the body and take longer to digest, potentially leading to discomfort and disrupted sleep.

4. High-sugar foods and heavy meals: Eating big or sugary meals too close to bedtime can lead to spikes in blood sugar, potentially causing wakefulness at night.

5. Alcohol: While it may help you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces REM sleep, which is considered the most restorative phase of sleep. In other words, you’ll get a lot less value out of your sleep with alcohol in your system. 

Unfortunately, there’s yet another way food can disturb your sleep!

When is mealtime?

Middle age woman looking smartwatch standing at home

The timing of your meal can also affect your sleep.

It’s not just the types of foods you eat that can negatively affect your sleep quality and overall health—the timing of when you eat can also be a factor. 

If you’re looking for better sleep, here are two eating habits you should avoid:

1. Eating late at night

Hungry mature man near open fridge in kitchen at night

Eating late at night can shift your internal clock and disrupt the natural circadian rhythm (your internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle every 24 hours), making it harder to fall asleep at your usual time.

One reason is that late-night eating can affect the release of hormones like insulin and cortisol, which can influence one’s sleep-wake cycle. 

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can lead to increased urination during the night, disrupting sleep. Conversely, low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) can cause wakefulness or nightmares, also disrupting sleep.

Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone; increasing these levels before bedtime can increase stress. 

Additionally, eating close to bedtime can lead to discomfort and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as lying down soon after eating can cause stomach acid to move up into the esophagus. GERD is a more severe form of heartburn.

2. Eating large meals before bed

woman overeating pizza sitting in bed late at night before bedtime  unhealthy eating, lifestyle concept

Large or supersized meals can overload your digestive system, making it hard for you to fall asleep or causing you to wake up during the night.

And, of course, if those foods are heavy or rich, they may cause bloating, gas, and discomfort, disrupting your sleep.

Set yourself up for optimal sleep

Stonehenge Health Dynamic Mushrooms

There are a few things you can do via your nutrition to increase your chances for a good night’s sleep. 

First, aim to have your dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Allowing space between your meal and bedtime gives enough time for digestion to occur and helps avoid discomfort or indigestion.

If you get a little hungry after dinner, opt for a light snack that won’t spike your blood sugar or cause digestion issues. Foods containing tryptophan, magnesium, or calcium (see the list above!) can promote sleep.

Eating your meals and snacks at consistent times every day can help regulate your body’s internal clock, improving your sleep cycle and overall health.

These actions all have one thing in common—they aim to reduce the stress inside your body. 

And there’s another thing you can do to help reduce stress…

Dynamic Mushrooms from Stonehenge Health is a powerful nootropic formulation designed to help support healthy cognitive function while also helping to support healthy stress response.* 

With a sophisticated blend of Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Chaga, Shiitake, and Maitake, Dynamic Mushrooms is your new secret weapon for taking control of your sleep.* 

Ready to explore the magical world of mushrooms?

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