Did you know that 35% of adults don’t get enough sleep nowadays, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control And Prevention)? And, that if you are failing to fall asleep within 10 to 15 minutes for lying in your bed, you may well be sleep deprived.
These shocking statistics may not be too surprising at all when we consider the amount of stress factors we have in our environment today. Constantly living ‘on the edge’ has strained our nervous system to the point, where most of us don’t feel rested even after a “good night’s sleep”. When you’re asleep your “body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.” Therefore, it makes sense that sleep deficiency or deprivation can cause catastrophic physical and mental issues. In fact, it’s been found that sleep deficiency “can raise your risk for some chronic health problems,” as well as affect “how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.”
As always, we can find help and solutions in the foods that we eat! There are some truly powerful plant-based options that can assist you in your sleeping cycle to help you fight sleep deprivation.
“Figs pack potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “These minerals help with blood flow and muscle contraction, which are key for falling asleep.” Besides crushing your dessert craving, each fig also packs some additional fiber that’ll keep you full.
Pistachios hit the sleep-inducing jackpot, packing in protein, vitamin B6, and magnesium, all of which contribute to better sleep. Refrain from a shell-cracking frenzy, though. “Don’t exceed a 1-ounce portion of nuts,” London warns. “Anything too high in calories can have the reverse effect of keeping you awake!”
The nutrients in dried plums — vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium, to name a few — help make melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Use prunes as a whole-grain toast topping, mix them into trail mix, or eat them on their own about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Since dehydration can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep (not to mention your energy levels overall!), choosing watery fruits like melon can make up for any deficits.
It may be a favorite for breakfast, but you might want to pair a bowl of oatmeal with some coffee to make it through the day. “Grains in oatmeal trigger insulin production much like whole-grain bread,” says Cynthia Pasquella, CCN, CHLC, CWC. “They raise your blood sugar naturally and make you feel sleepy. Oats are also rich in melatonin, which relaxes the body and helps you fall asleep.”
The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to increase your melatonin intake, recommends Michelle Dudash, a registered dietician. Cherries, along with nuts and oats, are a natural source of melatonin. When eaten regularly, they can help regulate your sleep cycle.
This Middle Eastern spread is another great source of tryptophan. If you’re waking up hungry in the middle of the night, that usually means you’re not getting enough calories during the day. Eat hummus during the day for better sleep and aim for three small meals overall, plus two snacks if needed.
A salad with dinner could speed up your bedtime since lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties and affects the brain similarly to opium.
An Australian study found that drinking a cup of passionfruit tea one hour before bed helped people sleep more soundly. Researchers believe that Harman alkaloids—chemicals found in high levels in the flower—act on your nervous system to make you tired.
Jasmine rice in particular brings on shut-eye faster; research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a meal that included jasmine rice fell asleep faster than when they ate other rice types.
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