Every day we make choices about the food and drinks we use to fuel our bodies. Once thought to be relatively simple, the digestive system has increasingly become the focus of much research in the field of mental health. This is primarily because of discovered connections with the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions and cancer.
While we are still young in our understanding, it is clear that the microbiome contained within our gut is very much connected to the quality of our sleep, and that the choices we make about what to eat have far-reaching effects.
Certain foods in particular are linked with good sleep and gut health as they are full of the nutrients the brain thrives on for good sleep.
Here are five nutrients to keep in mind as you fill up your grocery cart and make choices about what to eat.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 has an important job. This little vitamin is partly responsible for creating melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone and is produced naturally in your body. Though melatonin supplements are available over the counter, there are natural ways to help your body produce the melatonin your brain needs to induce sleep.
Milk, bananas and fish such as tuna, halibut, salmon and more are filled with Vitamin B6 that your body can use to make melatonin.
Foods Rich in Fiber
Correlations have been reported between fiber and slow-wave sleep. This marks an increase in more restful sleep versus restless sleep. Also, keep in mind that fiber lowers the chance of spikes in blood sugar. These spikes in blood sugar decrease melatonin— discussed above, thus fibrous foods also work to maintain melatonin levels.
Many fruits like strawberries, raspberries, apples and pears contain a good amount of fiber. You may also want to eat foods like quinoa, beans, bran cereals, artichokes and more to get the fiber your brain needs.
Foods Rich in Serotonin
Serotonin, like melatonin, is a chemical in the brain associated with healthy sleep. While melatonin helps your brain fall asleep, serotonin helps your brain stay asleep and helps your brain signal appropriately to wake up feeling rested. Foods that are rich in soy are rich in the compound called isoflavone which boosts the production of serotonin.
Miso, edamame and tofu are just a few foods packed with isoflavones. Eggs, cheese, turkey and even pineapple are good go-to options for a serotonin boost.
Foods Rich in Calcium
Calcium deficiency has been linked to trouble falling asleep. Nuts, seeds, beans and lentils all contain stores of calcium. In addition, collard greens, kale and other dark green leafy veggies are full of the calcium needed to help fall asleep. For those who are not lactose intolerant, yogurt, milk and other dairy products are also good options for foods rich in calcium.
Foods Rich in Magnesium
Magnesium has also been found to both reduce inflammation and play a role in your ability to stay asleep throughout the night. If your brain does not have enough magnesium, which helps to reduce cortisol, studies suggest it may be more difficult to counteract your body’s stress hormone. Thus, to maintain restful sleep throughout the night, eat nuts, whole grains, and avocados.
Foods to Include in Your Diet
- Almonds or other nuts
- Chia Seeds or other seeds
- Milk or other dairy products
- Salmon or other fatty fish
- Whole Grains
- Bananas or other fruit, like kiwi or pears
Healthy digestion is paramount when promoting restful sleep. By choosing natural foods with the nutrients your brain needs, you are encouraging healthy communication processes between your brain and body. As a part of sleep hygiene, healthy eating empowers your brain-body connection to produce restful sleep.
Sleep hygiene is just as important as hygiene for cleaning your body and home. Make a habit of practicing good sleep hygiene and eating sleep-promoting foods every day.
No matter where you are at on your recovery journey, taking steps to increase the quality of your sleep is incredibly important. At Washburn House, through our addiction treatment programs that are uniquely suited to your needs, you’ll partner with your treatment team to develop the skills necessary to create and sustain a new life in recovery.
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