Sleep is very important when it comes to improving our health. Most people should aim to get 7-9 hours a night. Sadly, most people aren't getting this.
What happens when we don't get enough sleep?
Lack of sleep decreases the hormone leptin which is the hormone that tells our brain when we are full. It also increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals to our brain that we are hungry.
Have you ever noticed that after a night of little sleep that you feel hungry all day long? When this happens, people tend to reach for the sugary foods -- which will only make you hungry a short time later.
Besides working on creating a bedtime routine that helps you wind down, there are foods that will enhance your sleep.
What nutrients help to enhance sleep?
Melatonin - this naturally occurring hormone, helps to regulate out sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is released when it starts to get dark outside and it will decrease when it starts to get light outside. Those that have trouble sleeping, may be low in melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.
Magnesium - this mineral is crucial for our body to function. As for helping with sleep, magnesium role is to help the body relax. It does this by blocking the molecules that will leave the body feeling excited, which in turn calms the nervous system.
Potassium - another important mineral, but instead of helping with falling asleep, potassium helps to keep you asleep.
B-Vitamins - this complex of vitamins plays an important role in our health. As it pertains to sleep, this group of vitamins helps to regulate tryptophan levels. Tryptophan is an amino acid that gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain, which in turn gets converted to serotonin, that helps to promote sleep.
So what foods should you consume to help improve your sleep?
1. Tart Cherries -- one of the few foods that are a natural source of melatonin. They are also very high in antioxidants, which help to ward off disease.
2. Bananas -- you have probably heard that bananas are very high in potassium, which is true, but they are also high in tryptophan.
3. Tomatoes -- these powerhouses are rich in both potassium and b-vitamins.
4. Pineapple -- this fruit packs a double punch when it comes to helping with sleep. Not only it is high in b-vitamins, but it also contains a digestive enzyme, bromelain.
5. Spinach -- a dark leafy green that is rich in both magnesium and many of the b-vitamins
6. Swiss Chard -- a real nutritional powerhouse that contains magnesium, potassium and b-vitamins.
7. Dark Chocolate -- a little square of dark chocolate will provide you will some great health benefits, including a boost of Vitamin B6.
8. Almonds -- rich in magnesium, but they also contain potassium.
9. Pumpkin Seeds -- incredibly nutrient dense, these seeds contain both Vitamin B6 and B12 as well as magnesium
10. Salmon -- this fatty-fish is known for being great for heart health but with the high amounts of vitamin B6, it is also good for healthy sleep.
How is your sleep? Do you sleep through the night or do you often have restless nights? I would love to hear from you!