In order to keep your body healthy so it can function at a high capacity, you need adequate sleep. According to a new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of Americans are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends that adults between the ages of 18-60 should get at least seven hours of sleep. According to an article published on PubMed, researchers conducted a study that aimed to find out the consequences of sleep deprivation.
For the studies, healthy adults were subjected to limited hours of sleep; randomized into 4, 6, and 8 hours. Caffeine usage was carefully restricted as well as their sleep and wake time. After subjecting the participants to 14 days of sleep restriction, researchers found that when given tests to complete, those with only 4 or 6 hours of sleep scored significantly lower. The tests focused on attention, cognitive thought, working memory, mood and reaction time.
With that said, getting adequate sleep can depend on many variables, with food being one of them. What you consume before going to bed can either aid your sleep or hinder it. Below you will find the best bedtime snacks that will help you sleep and provide optimal health benefits as well.
1. Almonds. According to the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, almonds are an excellent source of magnesium, providing you with 19% of your daily needs with just one ounce. The journal also mentions that almost 50% of older adults are suffering from insomnia. In addition, researchers believe that the natural N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) antagonist and GABA agonist, Mg2+ play an essential role in the regulation of sleep. So a study was conducted to determine if magnesium could help improve insomnia in the elderly. 46 elderly subjects were chosen and were either given 500 mg of magnesium or a placebo daily for 8 weeks. Activity and sleep logs were completed in order to monitor the efficiency. After the 8 weeks, results showed that the group supplementing with magnesium had a statistically increased sleep time.
2. Chamomile Tea. This powerful herbal tea can also help you sleep at night. Chamomile tea contains the flavonoid apigenin. What this does is bind to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. To back up this claim, a study that is published in BioMed Central had researchers examine the efficacy and safety of chamomile for improving participants sleep and any daytime symptoms for patients suffering from chronic insomnia. So researchers performed an efficient, yet small, double-blind study in 34 patients that were between 18-65 years old with DSM-IV primary insomnia for six months. Each patient was given a random dose of 270 mg of chamomile twice a day, or placebo for 28 days. Results from the study showed that the group that was given the dose of chamomile fell asleep 15 minutes faster and experienced a reduced awakening time during the night.
3. Kiwi. According to an article found in Mediators of Inflammation, abnormal levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, and insufficient antioxidants can affect sleep duration. To test their hypothesis, data was collected from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data included 10,000 people and the data was collected from personal interviews, standardized physical exams, and laboratory samples. Results in regards to inflammation, oxidative stress, and insufficient antioxidants, researchers found that participants who were administered a kiwi diet, which was two kiwis a night for four weeks, improved their sleep onset and duration. One of the beliefs as to why kiwi had such a strong effect on the sleep onset and duration is because it contains high levels of vitamin C along with serotonin, which helps regulate your sleep cycle.
4. Tart Cherry Juice. Self Nutrition Data states that an 8-ounce serving of tart cherry juice contains 37% of your daily needs for vitamin A, 9% for vitamin C and 9% for manganese. In addition to its incredible health properties, it can also promote a good night’s sleep. In the journal Mediators of Inflammation, experts state that tart cherry juice can have the same effect on inflammation oxidative stress and insufficient antioxidants as Kiwi does. The reason why tart cherry juice has such a strong effect is because it contains melatonin, according to a meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine. The meta-analysis consisted of two weeks and results showed that subjects experienced an improvement in insomnia symptoms when compared to the placebo group. In addition, the study also concluded that one of the reasons why tart cherries have such an impact on sleep time and duration is because they influence cytokines, which is associated with the sleep cycle. So in essence, it could be melatonin that helps fight inflammation and oxidative stress, all of which are associated with poor sleep. Or it could be the influence it has on the sleep cycle, either way, the science and facts are present which cannot be ignored.
5. Fatty Fish. Before you say anything, let me just explain that I am not telling you to eat fatty fish before bed. What I am suggesting is that you consume it in the evening if you are having trouble sleeping. As I have mentioned earlier in this article, serotonin helps regulate a large variety of brain functions and behaviors, which can help enhance sleep quality. With that said, fatty fish like salmon contain exceptionally high levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help produce serotonin, according to an article published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. To prove this claim, I was able to find a study that is published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that examined the association between fatty fish consumption and sleep. The study consisted of 95 male patients who were randomly assigned to a fish or control group. The fish group received Atlantic salmon three times a week from September to February, and the control group was given an alternative meal. From pre-test, the control group reported a better sleep latency. But when they compared the post-test results, the fish group had a higher level of vitamin D. This resulted in better sleep efficiency and a more positive wake time.
6. Walnuts. Self Nutrition Data states that walnuts contain over 19 vitamins and minerals which includes almost two grams of fiber in just a one-ounce serving. They also state that walnuts are rich in magnesium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus. In addition, a study in Food & Research explains that melatonin, which is widely known as a sleep-regulating hormone, can be produced by consuming walnuts. In fact, an article published in the journal Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience explains that the fatty acids in fatty walnuts provide ALA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that is eventually converted to DHA in the body. The article also suggests that DHA could potentially increase the production of serotonin.
7. Passionflower Tea. Anxiety can really hinder someone’s sleep. It can cause a person to stay awake for long hours of the night, or it can even cause someone to sleep all hours of the day because they don’t want to wake up and face their anxiety. The good news is that passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) contains apigenin, which is an antioxidant that can potentially reduce anxiety, according to an article called Risks and Benefits of Commonly used Herbal Medicines in Mexico, which you can find on PubMed. In addition, for those who do not suffer from anxiety but would like a good night’s sleep, a double-blind study that is published on PubMed investigated the effects of Passiflora incarnata and sleep quality. The study included 41 participants who were between the ages of 18-35 and were exposed to two treatments. One was a controlled group and the other was an order of treatments (passionflower vs placebo tea). Researchers measured six sleep-diary measures, and out of the six, sleep quality showed a significantly better increase for passionflower compared to the placebo group.
8. White Rice. Again, it needs to be noted that I am suggesting you consume white rice as a meal right before you sleep. Always give yourself enough time before bed to digest. According to an article published in the journal Sports Medicine, high glycemic index foods such as white rice should be consumed one hour before bed. The article also suggests that because white rice has a high glycemic index, it could also promote better sleep. In fact, a study published in PLoS One examined the association between high-glycemic index foods and good sleep quality. The study consisted of 1,848 men and women who were between the ages of 18 and 60. Rice, bread, and noodle consumption were evaluated using a series of self-administered diet history questionnaires. Sleep quality was measured by using the Japanese version of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. A global score of less than 5.5 was considered to be a poor sleep score. Results showed that high rice intake was associated with a better sleep which included a longer sleep duration.
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