Which Foods Can Help You Sleep Better?

A good night’s sleep is like a Golden Ticket to college students. Whether it’s noisy neighbors, a lab report that’s due in the morning or too much coffee in the evening, it can be hard to fall and stay asleep. The amount and quality of sleep you get can have a significant impact on your everyday health and what you eat during the day can impact your sleeping patterns. Let’s take a look at the various foods that may help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and really catch those Z’s.

Studies have shown that high-glycemic foods (those that release glucose rapidly) can significantly shorten the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. Foods that are high on the glycemic index include rice, potatoes and bread. Over 100 foods have been ranked on the glycemic index here. The same study showed that high-glycemic foods were most effective in shortening the time it takes to fall asleep when consumed four hours before bedtime. 

While high-glycemic foods can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, there are other foods that may take a more direct route to prompting sleep. The hormone that induces sleep is melatonin. According to some studies, foods high in Vitamin B6 and/or foods high in tryptophan have been found to aid in the “biosynthesis and secretion” of melatonin, which then, in turn, induces sleep. Vitamin B6 is required to make melatonin and tryptophan, the chemical responsible for maintaining a proper sleep cycle, is the same amino acid found in turkey that leads to the inevitable midday nap on Thanksgiving Day.

High-calorie foods, however, were shown to decrease the amount of melatonin found in blood. So, switching out ice cream for bananas, a food high in Vitamin B6, might be the best option if you’re trying to get to bed unless, of course, you get creative and make yourself some one-ingredient banana ice cream for the best of both worlds. 

Other foods rich in Vitamin B6 include certain types of fish like salmon, halibut or tuna, along with pistachios, prunes and sunflower seeds. As for tryptophan, foods like poultry, nuts, seeds and cheese are good sources.   

Whether you’re looking for a full meal or a small snack before bed, be aware of how the foods you eat may impact your sleeping patterns and, hopefully, your roommate lets you stay asleep! 

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