Taking care of you and your littles is no easy feat. But, try doing it on just a few hours of sleep, and some days it feels almost impossible. Unfortunately, that’s the reality many moms and dads face. Everyone knows the importance of sleep, but for so many of us, it’s the first thing to get sacrificed in our otherwise busy lives.
Ever notice how many parents have set bedtimes for their kids, but rarely do they set one for themselves? Are you one of these parents? If so, it’s important to ask yourself why. If it’s because there’s no time, you’ll need to evaluate your priorities and make some hard decisions about what you can cut out. Sleep really shouldn’t be sacrificed. If it’s because you just simply can’t sleep, that’s an easier problem to fix.
The food and sleep correlation
Research shows that there is a correlation between lack of sleep and poor dietary choices, but that also poor dietary choices lead to sleep disturbances. A bit of a catch 22 isn’t it? So, what can you do to remove yourself from this chicken and egg scenario? Believe it or not, eating certain foods can actually help you get a better night’s sleep. Start incorporating some of these nutrient-rich foods into your family’s diet and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain and controls our sleep patterns. It keeps your biological clock on track, helping you know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. The more melatonin your body produces, the more sleepy you get. Melatonin levels are usually highest at night and lowest in the mornings.
Tryptophan, Magnesium and B Vitamins
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Essential amino acids, such as tryptophan, can not be made through our bodies, and can only be sourced through food. Melatonin levels are directly affected by tryptophan, and magnesium and vitamin B help tryptophan to be absorbed by the body. This means that a diet lacking in tryptophan, magnesium, and vitamin B will affect the production of melatonin in the body and result in poorer sleep.
Here are some foods that will help make for a better night’s sleep.
Dairy is a great food choice in aiding your sleep. It contains B vitamins, magnesium, and tryptophan, all of which play a role in increasing the body’s production of melatonin. Have a glass of milk, a small bowl of yogurt, or maybe some berries and cottage cheese. Bonus points for incorporating the antioxidants of berries into your snack. They have a host of benefits that can also contribute to better night’s sleep.
When you think of leafy greens you don’t necessarily associate them with calcium. However, you may be surprised to find out that they contain a high amount of this mineral. Studies show that calcium deficiency can actually hinder sleep. Leafy greens such as spinach, cabbage, and kale can help make sure you aren’t lacking any in your diet. These vegetables also contain magnesium and potassium, which also plays a role in getting a better night’s sleep.
Nuts such as almonds offer a host of nutritional benefits. One of them is that they are rich in melatonin and magnesium. A few nuts a day can actually combat insomnia and encourage better sleep quality. They are definitely worth adding to your daily diet.
Fatty fishes contain high levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Both of these are linked to the production of serotonin. Melatonin is synthesized by serotonin, making salmon and halibut great options for getting your sleep on.
Specifically, tart cherries, kiwis, and bananas have all been linked with helping improve overall sleep quality. A glass of tart cherry juice is said to make you feel sleepy by stimulating melatonin production. The properties of bananas all lend themselves to being natural muscle relaxants, which helps your body to unwind and prepare for sleep. Eating just two small kiwis has been associated with not only getting better sleep but also sleeping longer. Any fruit you choose to eat will have nutritional benefits, but choosing one of these 3 will give you the associated health benefits, in addition to better quality sleep.
While tea isn’t necessarily considered food, it is worth mentioning. Chamomile tea is an herbal tea that also gets referred to as “sleep tea”. That’s because it contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which is known to encourage drowsiness. It has also been known to help reduce anxiety, which is definitely welcomed by anyone trying to fall asleep at night. Be careful that your tea does not contain any caffeine, as this may be counterproductive to the sleep properties.
Night snacking is pretty common. If you’re going to have a snack before bed, your best bet is a banana, some nuts, or a glass of skim milk. These have all been identified to help improve sleep. However, please don’t take the term bedtime snacking too literally. You should never actually eat right before bed. Eat your snack at least one hour prior. This is how long it will take for the tryptophan to reach your brain.
Any significant change to your routine can be difficult. However, making quality sleep a priority will benefit your life in so many ways that the adjustment period will prove to have been worth any sacrifices. Incorporating foods that promote a better night’s sleep may just result in a happier, healthier, more productive you. That’s the kind of parent every child deserves.