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The Science Behind Foods That Help Us Sleep

Popcorn put him to sleepIt’s a well-established fact that dietary practices ― both good and bad ― impact your sleeping patterns. Here are a few foods that are scientifically proven to help you get some shut-eye.

Nutritionists have touted fish oil for years; the substance has been known to assist patients with cardiovascular problems, as well as those who suffer from mood disorders (such as depression). Now, it’s widely believed that fish oil aids sleep by facilitating the secretion of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates sleep cycles, and reducing levels of a stress hormone known as norepinephrine. Fish oil tablets and pills are available, but a plate of salmon, halibut, or other fatty fish will also do the trick.

Tart Cherry Juice
Historically, most people have associated tart cherries with pie filling and sundae toppings. But as reported by Dr. Oz, nutritionists today recognize the sour little fruit is a powerful sleep agent, thanks to high levels of melatonin. As a result, tart cherry juice is a common fixture on organic grocery shelves throughout the country.

Jasmine Rice
According to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a serving of jasmine rice before bed can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep by as much as 50 percent. Why jasmine rice? Because it ranks much higher on the glycemic index than brown or white rice; the higher a food places on the index, the more tryptophan your body produces when the food is consumed. For an extra tryptophan kick, Dr. Ben Kim suggests serving the jasmine rice in a bowl of miso soup.

Almonds contain a relatively high concentration of magnesium, which has been shown to both improve sleep and relax the muscles. The nuts also provide proteins that will not only balance your blood sugar levels, but actually prompt your body to reduce its adrenaline levels and enter “sleep and digest mode.” Before you turn in, consume one ounce of raw almonds or a tablespoon of almond butter.

Bananas contain two minerals that induce muscle relaxation, potassium and magnesium, as well as plenty of carbs to boost seratonin and tryptophan to aid overall restfulness. LIVESTRONG suggests coupling your banana with a glass of milk, a dish of nonfat yogurt, or a serving of oatmeal to further aid your sleep.

Chamomile Tea
Unlike caffeinated beverages, chamomile tea ― which is naturally caffeine-free ― actually calms the nerves using organic anxiolytic compounds, which are known to cut down on insomnia and reduce overall stress. Consuming warm liquids before bedtime has also been shown to aid sleep by raising your body heat.

Nonfat Popcorn
According to Shape, nonfat popcorn is the “best food when you need to sleep”. The crunchy snack contains carbohydrates that release tryptophan into your brain; this produces seratonin, the most powerful sleep-inducing neurotransmitter in the body. As an added bonus, it’s really healthy for you ― three cups of plain nonfat popcorn contain less than 100 calories.

Raw Honey
Arguably the healthiest food on the planet, raw honey can help prevent everything from anemia to gastrointestinal ulcers. It’s also a common aid for insomniacs; most experts agree that one or two tablespoons of raw honey just before bedtime will greatly boost your sleep ― particularly if you are a little under the weather (as we all tend to be this time of year); The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a report that found raw honey was more effective at relieving coughs than Nyquil, Dimetapp, and other over-the-counter drugs. Seasoned marathoner Mark Sisson included a dollop of raw honey in his Huffington Post article, ‘How to Manufacture the Best Night of Sleep in Your Life‘.

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