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Six Foods That Can Help You Sleep

Check out this great article from Food is Fuel NYC Dietetic Intern Jessica from the University of Florida. For more great content and food inspiration check out Jessica on Instagram @walkandguac


Although it is often overlooked, sleep is as important to your health as a balanced diet and physical activity. A sufficient amount of sleep provides a restorative effect on immune system, muscles, and memory.

It is recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but most people get less than seven. An insufficient amount of sleep may lead to weight gain because a lack of sleep results in a larger appetite and, consequently, consumption of more calories. When our bodies receive a surplus of extra calories that leads to weight gain.

Not sleeping well is associated with decreased concentration and productivity with a longer time to finish tasks and a higher amount of mistakes being made.

A lack of sleep can also result in decreased emotions and social interactions. When we are sleep deprived we have a reduced ability to recognize the expressions of anger and happiness.

Implementing certain foods, habits, and routines into your day may help you relax and fall asleep at night.

Food Choices to Help You Sleep:

  • Avocados- Increase serotonin levels to induce sleep and are a natural source of magnesium.

  • Whole Grains- Refined grains, like white bread, may decrease serotonin production. Opt for whole grains when available to avoid that effect!

  • Dark Chocolate- Increases serotonin levels, low in sugar, aim for 70% or greater.

  • Tart Cherries-Natural source of melatonin and antioxidants.

  • Decaffeinated Tea- Bedtime/Sleepy time tea, chamomile, ginger, and peppermint teas can help you relax before bed. Make sure the tea is decaf!

  • Fish- Contains tryptophan and some fish, like tuna and salmon, contain Vitamin B6, which improves serotonin production.

What to Avoid to Improve Your Sleep:

  • Caffeine- Found in coffee, tea, and soda. The effects can last up to 8 hours after that last sip. If you need an afternoon pick-me-up coffee, avoid drinking it within 8 hours before you usually go to bed.

  • Nicotine- Smoking has a negative impact on your sleep schedule.

  • Heavy meals- Avoid heavy meals within a couple hours before bed. A light snack is okay though!

Night Time Routine Tips

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time- If you go to sleep around the same time every day, your body will adjust to start preparing itself for sleep at that time. Try to keep the same sleep schedule on the weekends as the weekdays.

  • Quiet hour before bed- Start to wind down an hour before you go to bed. Read a book or do some light stretching. Try to avoid electronics or put the screen setting on night mode if it is necessary to use them.

  • Keep bedroom quiet, cool, and dark- The bedroom environment plays an important role in promoting, or inhibiting, sleep. If it is difficult to eliminate all outside noises, try playing some white noise or a soothing podcast to drown out extra sounds. Sleep quality improves when our core temperature decreases so lowering the temperature on the thermostat or using a fan will help you relax and fall asleep. Get your bedroom as dark as possible by using curtains or blinds to cover the window. Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

  • Be physically active- Expending energy during a workout can help you feel more tired and ready to rest at the end of the day. Avoid working out too close to the time you are going to bed because this causes an increase in core temperature making it more difficult to fall asleep.

Getting good quality sleep improves concentration, performance, and energy levels. Use these tips and catch some Z’s!


Graduate Student and Dietetic Intern

University of Florida | Class of 2020

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