Quick quiz: How many nights per week do you get less than 7 hours of sleep?
If it's the majority of your week, you aren't alone. According to a study published in the Journal of Community Health, more than 3 in 10 Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep each night. The daily recommendation, per the National Sleep Foundation, is between seven and nine hours a night. That said, even if you're hitting the target recommendation, you might not be getting a restful slumber.
Struggling to cook healthy? We'll help you prep.
But there's also a dietary benefit to getting a good night's rest. Research has shown that people who aren't well-rested are more likely to eat less healthy foods (think: fats, sweets, and refined carbs) than those who get plenty of sleep.
If you're not getting enough quality, restful sleep, we have good news. There are a handful of foods that research shows can help. Here they are.
Eat 2 kiwifruits one hour before bed and research suggests you'll sleep longer and have a more restful slumber. Experts aren't sure what about the fuzzy-skinned fruit gives it its sleep-promoting benefits, but there's speculation around a variety of factors. Kiwis contain vitamins C and E, other antioxidants, and serotonin—all of which are believed to encourage sleep. Kiwifruit is also a source of folate (or folic acid), a deficiency of which research has linked to insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
Tart Cherries or Tart Cherry Juice
Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice twice a day has been shown to help people get more sleep, both in groups considered healthy and among those with chronic insomnia. In one study, participants drank a glass (about 8 ounces) of tart cherry juice in the morning and at night. In another, folks ate a cherry "dessert" (each serving contained about a cup of cherries) after lunch and again after dinner. Experts think it's the melatonin—a hormone in your body that helps with sleep—in tart cherries that makes them beneficial. And in those aforementioned studies, cherry eaters raised their melatonin levels.
Research on milk's slumber-inducing benefits dates back to the 1970s. Turns out it's not just an old wive's tale, either: Drinking a glass at night—up to as late as 30 minutes before bed—may help you sleep more soundly. Some attribute the benefits to milk containing tryptophan, while others say it could be the vitamin D in milk. And there's definitely credence to the latter, as preliminary research has shown that vitamin D-deficient people who took vitamin D supplements improved their sleep. Either way, a glass of milk before bed should help you sleep more soundly.
Don’t Eat (or Drink) These Sleep Stealers
No surprise here—there are also food items that hinder sleep quality and quantity. The most well-known, of course, is coffee. Interestingly, older adults seem to be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on sleep than younger adults. Alcohol is also not helpful: It helps you fall asleep initially, but then prevents you from getting a restful slumber. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it turns on the alpha activity in your brain, which is supposed to happen when you're resting quietly, not sleeping. Sugary drinks are also problematic. People who regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages are more likely to have poorer sleep quality.
Looking to incorporate some sleep-friendly foods into your week? Subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet today and search for recipes by ingredient to help boost your intake of cherries, kiwis, and milk!
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