MCGC Nutrition

5 foods for better sleep

Marie-Claire Gahel-Calouche

Introduction 

Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you always tossing and turning at night? If so, you’re not alone. But did you know that there may be some foods that can help? In this blog post, I’ll share my top five foods (or foods I am asked about) that can help improve your sleep. So if you’re looking for a better night’s sleep, make sure to read on and perhaps you may get a few more Z’s! 

 

1- Fatty fish 

You probably have already heard of the benefits of fatty fish for your heart health such as omega-3 and vitamin D, but did you know that those nutrients may also aid in achieving better quality sleep as well. The key is that these 2 nutrients also regulate serotonin, another key player in the sleep cycle. 

 

2- Tart cherries 

Interestingly, cherries may be associated to a better sleep quality, specifically tart cherries which contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle and tryptophan (a precursor to melatonin). Other benefits of consuming cherries include antioxidants such as vitamin A and C and fiber which may contribute to protect cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, and help with weight management. 

 

3- Walnuts 

What not to love about these nuts. Some benefits include a decrease in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (TG), an improvement in diastolic pressure, a potential to protect against certain cancers, and beneficial effects on the microbiome.  And what about sleep quality? Just like almonds, walnuts also are a source of melatonin and its precursor, the essential amino acid tryptophan! So enjoy a few  while a good night time reading of our article on walnuts here : https://www.mcgcnutrition.ca/en/walnut/ 

 

 4- Warm milk 

A glass of warm milk before bedtime has long been used as a natural sleep aid. Milk contains tryptophan may play a role in aiding sleep. In theory, this amino acid, amount other things, is converted into serotonin in the brain which in turn gets converted into melatonin and may help with falling asleep! Does it have to be warm? Actually, that is up to you as currently there is no science to back warm vs cold milk and a link with sleep. 

 

5- Camomile tea 

Though it is true that Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in the brain and promotes relaxation, there is no conclusive evidence of it’s benefit with regards to better sleep and, at best, modest evidence! So why then do people report sleeping after a warm cup of tea? Most likely it is the ritual of making the tea and the calming process rather than the chemicals or nutrients found in Chamomile itself. Nevertheless, if a warm cup of herbal tea helps you settle in, then enjoy this calming ritual. A word of caution, however: some herbs can have interactions with medication and other supplements and Camomile tea should be discouraged when pregnant. Please discuss with your medical doctor, pharmacist, registered dietitian or medical professional before taking it if unsure. 

 

So, if you are looking for a natural way to get a good night’s sleep, perhaps try incorporating some of these foods into your diet. And if you want to get more interesting tips, be sure to check out our blog where we have tons of great articles.

Thanks for reading! 

References: 

  1. Zick SM, Wright BD, Sen A, Arnedt JT. Preliminary examination of the efficacy and safety of a standardized chamomile extract for chronic primary insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11:78. Published 2011 Sep 22. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-78  
  2. Kelley DS, Adkins Y, Laugero KD. A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):368. Published 2018 Mar 17. doi:10.3390/nu10030368  
  3. Kwan, Live Science, 2021, Can drinking warm milk really help you fall asleep? Last accessed on 27 may 2022: https://www.livescience.com/does-warm-milk-help-sleep 
  4. Jarry, McGill University, 2018, Chamomile Tea, Will You Help Me Sleep Tonight? Last accessed on 27 may 2022 : https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health-and-nutrition/chamomile-tea-will-you-help-me-sleep-tonight  
  5. Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Manchester LC, Hardeland R, Reiter RJ. Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Oct;49(10):4898-902. doi: 10.1021/jf010321+. PMID: 11600041.  
  6. Meng X, Li Y, Li S, et al. Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin. Nutrients. 2017;9(4):367. Published 2017 Apr 7. doi:10.3390/nu9040367  

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