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A woman reaches into her fridge for a late-night snack.

Foods to Eat and Avoid for a Good Night's Sleep

Feb 18, 2020

Have you ever experienced night after night lying in bed, trying to sleep, and counting the hours you’ll be able to rest if you could just fall asleep right then? You’re not alone — according to a National Sleep Foundation poll, more than 50% of respondents reported having one or multiple symptoms of insomnia a few nights each week. However, some simple tweaks to your diet might be the key to catching more Z’s every night. 

1. Sip Some Chamomile 

Chamomile, a soothing tea made from flower blossoms, is naturally caffeine-free. It contains a flavonoid (a chemical found in plants) called apigenin, which binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Activating these receptors can reduce anxiety and encourage sleep, promoting more restful nights. 

2. Cut Out Caffeine  

While it’s a well-known fact that you should avoid caffeine before bed, many people aren’t aware of how long before trying to fall asleep they should follow this guideline. Caffeine has a half-life of five hours, which means that only half the caffeine you consumed has left your system after five hours. Caffeine is also present in several surprising foods, including chocolate and decaf coffee, so be sure to leave those out of your late-night menu. 

3. Snack on Walnuts and Almonds

Walnuts and almonds are rich in melatonin. This hormone occurs naturally in the human body and is responsible for regulating sleep and wake cycles. While you can purchase melatonin supplements, try adding healthy foods containing this hormone to your diet instead. Not only will they help you fall asleep, but you can also benefit from the brain-boosting oils present in the nuts. 

4. Remove Refined Carbs 

In one study on women aged 50 and older, researchers found a connection between low-quality sleep and a diet rich in refined carbs, such as white bread and sugar. However, the reasoning behind this is still unclear. Researchers are unsure of whether the exhaustion that comes from insomnia causes women to eat more refined carbs or if the carbs are causing insomnia. If the carbs are responsible for low-quality sleep, researchers believe it is due to the sharp increase in blood sugar that comes from consuming these refined carbs, which can cause your body to release cortisol and adrenaline. 

5. Consume Kiwis 

While it probably never crossed your mind that this fuzzy fruit could help you fall asleep, kiwi can make a great addition to a bedtime routine. In one study that followed 24 people for four weeks, participants ate two kiwifruits every night one hour before bedtime. Researchers found that participants were able to fall asleep faster and enjoyed 13.4% more time sleeping when they followed this routine. This could be due to the antioxidants and serotonin present in the fruit, which can help moderate the sleep cycle. 

If poor sleep quality is affecting your wellbeing, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. They can work with you to determine healthy sleep habits and refer you to a CHI St. Luke’s Health Sleep Center for testing and more advanced treatment. 

Sources: 
Medical News Today | How diet may lead to insomnia
National Sleep Foundation | Food and Drink That Promote a Good Night's Sleep
Healthline | The 9 Best Foods to Eat Before Bed
Medical News Today | What are the benefits of chamomile tea?
Healthline | How Long Does Caffeine Stay in Your System?