If there's one thing that a lot of people can say has been a side effect of 2020, it's sleeplessness. Between the pandemic, working from home, always having the kids around and, let's be honest, trying not to panic over all of the above, striving to get quality rest has been a real challenge. Understandably so.
As I was recently recommending some healthy sleep tips to someone I know, I happened upon an all-natural sleepy time lotion that some of you might want to try (click here for the recipe). Yet as I thought about all of the things that we can externally do to make resting better, my mind then wandered over to things that we can do from the inside out too.
In walks, food. While it's always a good idea to have your last meal around 2 ½ hours before calling it a night (because your body can digest your meals and reduce heartburn and insomnia that way), there are certain foods that can play a direct role in you getting some quality zzz's each and every evening. So, if you've tried just about everything and have still found yourself tossing and turning for hours on end, check out the 10 foods that very well could bring an end to all of that.
Let's start off with bananas, shall we? This is the kind of fruit that I have a pretty fickle relationship with because they have to be a perfect kind of ripe, with absolutely no bruises, in order for me to truly enjoy one. Anyway, if bananas are something that you eat on the regular, you are doing your body a favor on a few levels. That's because bananas contain a good amount of fiber, manganese, antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, protein and Vitamin B6. Bananas also can help to keep your blood sugar levels intact, improve the health of your heart, help to keep your kidneys strong and they can also help to relieve the discomfort of exercise-related muscle cramps (thanks to the potassium that's in them).
The reason why it's a good idea to snack on one or even make yourself a homemade banana smoothie a couple of hours before turning in is because, for one thing, the magnesium and potassium combo creates a wonderful way for your nerves and muscles to relax. Also, bananas have the amino acid tryptophan in them which makes it easier to feel calm and peaceful—sleepy even.
Banana Sleep Hack: Banana Tea Recipe
As far as dark leafy greens go, while I personally prefer collards over kale, I'll enjoy a kale salad or some homemade kale chips, every now and again because I know how good they are for me. Kale is considered to be one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. What that means is it's got such a high amount of vitamins and minerals that you can receive a ton of what you need daily, nutrition-wise, just by consuming kale alone. For instance, did you know that kale contains almost 700 percent of Vitamin K, a little over 200 percent of the Vitamin A and around 130 percent of the Vitamin C daily value that your system requires? Also, kale is high in fiber to keep you regular, antioxidants that fight off free radicals and compounds that help to prevent cancer cells from forming too.
Since kale also has a fair amount of magnesium, potassium and calcium, and since all of these are nerve relaxers, that's why kale gets a shout-out for being another food that can make going to sleep easier to do.Kale Sleep Hack: Vegetarian Kale Soup Recipe
If you are a melon fan, you're always looking out for your health if you're eating cantaloupe. It's loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene (a form of Vitamin A), fiber and potassium. Since it's also made up of 90 percent water, cantaloupe is a bona fide way to help to prevent dehydration. Some other health benefits include it being the kind of fruit that improves heart and eye health as well as improving your digestion.
Now check it. Did you know the dehydration can actually play a role in us not being able to fall or stay asleep? The backstory is that when we don't have enough fluid in our system, it can make our mouth and nasal drier which can result in sleep-disruptive snoring. Also, the antioxidants that are in this particular melon are actually proven to promote a better night's rest as well.
Cantaloupe Sleep Hack: Cantaloupe Sorbet Recipe
No matter what kind of nuts you prefer, they are a good thing for you to snack on. Nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats, fiber, selenium, manganese, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus and Vitamin E, as well as antioxidants. That alone helps to explain why you should chomp on a few, a couple of times a week. Nuts are also awesome when it comes to lowering cholesterol, reducing bodily inflammation, reducing your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke, improving the lining of your arteries and helping you to feel full if you're trying to lose weight.
Aside from the magnesium in nuts, something else that makes them a cool sleep aid is the fact that they've got melatonin in them too. That's a hormone that helps to induce sleep while also regulating your internal clock, so that your body gets sleepy on somewhat of a schedule. So, if you're someone who has trouble falling asleep every night, you might want to have a handful of nuts about three hours before bedtime. It could help to lull you to sleep quicker (almonds have a good amount of melatonin in them, by the way).
Nut Sleep Hack: Almond Butter Recipe
5. Tart Cherry Juice
I dig cherries anyway, so it was super easy to make the transition over to tart cherry juice when I found out that it was a great way to get my body to feel calmer and more relaxed. Anyway, as far as its health benefits go, tart cherry juice (which is the kind of juice that is made from Montmorency cherries) is a solid source of fiber, protein, vitamins A and C while also having a good amount of manganese, potassium and copper in it too. The reason why tart cherry juice a smart juice to add to your diet overall is because it can also help to reduce muscle soreness after working out, lessen arthritic and gout-related discomfort, promote brain health (thanks to its antioxidants and plant compounds), strengthen your immune system and lower your blood pressure as well.
Drinking a cold or even warmed up cup of tart cherry juice is a fabulous sleep agent because it's rich in melatonin, tryptophan and also anthocyanins (water-soluble pigments that give cherries their red color). The cool thing about anthocyanins is they can help your body to create even more melatonin while lengthening the amount of time that it remains in your system. Just make sure that it's 100 percent tart cherry juice. The cocktail stuff is loaded with sugar and since sugar is a stimulant, I'm pretty sure you can see how drinking it would be counterproductive like a mug.
Tart Cherry Juice Sleep Hack: Tart Cherry Sleepytime Elixir
A food that is basically a multivitamin in each serving is eggs. They are super high in protein, they've got a good amount of vitamins A, B, D, E, zinc, folate, selenium, calcium and zinc, and they are considered to be a "healthy fat" that can help to lower your cholesterol levels. Eggs also contain choline that can help to build healthy cell membranes, antioxidants that can improve your vision, and amino acids that can increase muscle mass and make your bones stronger.
And what will eating a hard-boiled egg or omelet in the evening do for you? Well, the white of an egg helps your body to produce more melatonin. Also, one of the amino acids that eggs have in them is tryptophan and well, you already know what that does.
Egg Sleep Hack: A Bedtime Beverage (with egg yolks, carob powder, maple syrup and more)
As far as dips go, hummus is pretty cool. If you've ever wondered exactly what hummus is, it's a Middle Eastern dish that is made up of chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic powder. A lot of vegetarians and vegans adore it because it's pretty off-the-charts when it comes to how much protein it contains. Plus, hummus is full of fiber, manganese, copper, folate, magnesium, iron and zinc. All of these nutrients work together to help to fight body inflammation, to keep your gut in good condition (since 80 percent of our immune system is in our gut, that's definitely a good thing), lower your blood sugar levels, reduce your risk for heart disease and also, since it's gluten, dairy and nut-free, if you've got a sensitivity to any of those things, you can enjoy hummus with absolutely no worries.
If you've ever had hummus and then found yourself yawning 30 minutes later, that's not a mere coincidence. Hummus is another food that has tryptophan in it and, thanks to the traces of Vitamin B6 that it also contains, eating it before turning in can help to regulate your internal clock so that your body is better able to maintain some sort of sleep schedule.
Hummus Sleep Hack: Easy Hummus Recipe
For as long as I live, I doubt I will ever get over how something as sweet as honey can be as good for our overall health and well-being too (plus, it never expires, did you know that?). Honey is really good for you because it's full of antioxidants and antibacterial and antifungal properties; ones that can help to lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels, suppress coughs (especially in children), clear up congestion and can even help wounds and pimples to heal at a much faster rate.
The really cool thing about honey, sleep wise, is that aside from the fact that honey helps melatonin to get to your brain at a faster pace, what I also learned a few years back, is honey also provides your brain with enough fuel to actually stay asleep. How? Well, about a teaspoon of honey before bedtime gives your liver with enough energy to produce the glycogen (a form of glucose) that you need for the insulin levels in your body to rise enough for tryptophan to release from your brain and produce serotonin—a natural chemical that stabilizes you mood and helps to relax you. So yeah, if you've been feeling restless, a little bit of honey sweetness may be the solution to all of your sleep-related worries.Honey Sleep Hack: Honey Butter Recipe
Something that I like to snack on throughout the day are grapes (frozen ones are especially bomb!). Believe it or not, grapes actually have their fair share of protein in them. They also have an impressive amount of vitamins A and K, copper and fiber too. Plus, the antioxidants in grapes can help to prevent chronic diseases, their plant compounds can fight off certain cancer cells, the potassium in grapes can help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and they also contain properties that can improve both your moods as well as your memory.
Since grapes are another fruit that are full of water (approximately 82 percent), that's one reason why they make the "help you to sleep" list. Yet, what really makes them dope is they contain melatonin and again, since that's a sleep-regulating hormone, well—how could you go wrong by snacking on a handful of grapes at bedtime?Grape Sleep Hack: Grape Salsa Recipe
10. Whole Grains
Whole oats. Whole wheat. Buckwheat. Millet. Quinoa. Brown rice. Popcorn. These are just a handful of examples of what's considered to be a whole grain food. So, if you're someone who likes to have a heaping bowl of oatmeal in the morning or to snack on popcorn while watching television, you're actually doing yourself a world of good. That's because whole grains contain the entire grain kernel—the bran, endosperm and germ—so that you're able to gain all of the nutrients from the grain before it's been processed. This means that you're able to partake of a high amount of the fiber, protein, antioxidants, plant compounds, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese and B vitamins that your body needs in order to maintain optimal health. Also, whole grains help to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and obesity.
A main thing that makes whole grains stellar in the help-you-to-sleep department is the magnesium that's in it. As it calms your nerves and muscles, it can also bind to your gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, so that you're able to remain in your sleep cycle without any disruption. How scientifically outstanding is that?
Whole Grain Hack: You can get 50 different recipes to create your favorite popcorn flavor here. Enjoy and sweet dreams, sis.
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