The nutrients you eat and when you eat them can affect key biological processes, including your sleep cycle. Regularly consuming sleep-friendly foods allows you to successfully enter and maintain a sleep cycle that lasts the recommended seven to nine hours. We’ve put together a list of a few vegan foods full of nutrients to feed your sleep cycle.
Almonds are packed with magnesium, a lesser known contributor to successful sleep. Your body’s parasympathetic nervous system relies on magnesium to help relax the body. Magnesium also reduces night waking. In addition, they contain proteins that stabilize blood-sugar levels throughout the night.
Avocados are another source of magnesium, but they have the added benefit of potassium too. Potassium prevents muscle cramps and spasms while helping the body to relax. Avocados also have the distinction of being high in fiber and healthy fats for an extra nutritional boost.
Potassium-rich bananas are a hotspot of sleep-supportive nutrients, containing magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan. Tryptophan, most famously found in turkey, regulates the brain’s production of melatonin, a key sleep hormone made in the pineal gland.
Speaking of melatonin, if you’re looking for a direct source, add cherries to your grocery list. Sour cherries and their juice, in particular, are full of melatonin that can add to the melatonin naturally made by your body.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are packed with nutrients, but it’s their calcium content that aids sleep. Calcium opens the door for tryptophan to enter the brain and get to work making melatonin. Of course, leafy greens are full of all kinds of other nutrients so you can’t go wrong by eating a few more.
Support Your Diet with Good Sleep Habits
The list of foods that contain sleep supportive nutrients goes on and on. For example, seeds and nuts are rich in tryptophan while beans and chickpeas bring more magnesium to the table. However, your diet will need to be coupled with good sleep habits to help you get that full seven to nine hours. These habits include:
A reasonable, consistent bedtime: Predictable behaviors allow the body to anticipate when to start the sleep cycle. The more consistent you are, the more readily your body responds to sleep hormones.
A relaxing nighttime routine: A bedtime preceded by a relaxing nighttime routine helps relieve stress and sets the stage for sleep success. You can even include a sleep-friendly snack.
Get outside: Sunlight, in large part, controls the sleep cycle. Time outside makes sure that sleep hormones are suppressed during the day and that they’re prepped and ready to go in the evening. If getting outside isn’t an option, light therapy can be used in its place. In light therapy, you spend a few minutes each morning under a special light bulb that mimics sunlight.
Eat at regular intervals and keep meal times consistent: When you eat can impact your sleep cycle as much as what you eat. Keep your meal times consistent to help the body anticipate your schedule and the release of sleep hormones.
The body needs the right fuel to function as it should. You don’t need to bulk up on sleep-supportive foods to give your sleep cycle a boost. You do, however, need to be sure your diet includes food that have the nutrients that power sleep and make them a regular part of your diet.
Written by: Ellie Porter