What to Eat for a Great Night's Sleep

How do you feel after a shitty night’s sleep? Aside from the obvious tired, you might feel irritable, depressed or anxious and you might be craving sugar or carbs, your body’s way of asking for a quick source of energy to perk you up.

When you’re sleep deprived your body produces more cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone, kicking your nervous system into high gear. You know, the same thing that happens when you’re running from a bear or trying to meet an important deadline. Not getting enough sleep can increase your blood sugar, knock your hormones out of balance and can even make you sick. And I’m not just talking about that cold you get after a week of too many late nights and early mornings. Lack of sleep has been linked to diseases such as heart disease, stomach ulcers and even cancer.

If you’ve ever tossed and turned all night thanks to a late-afternoon coffee or a gurgling stomach trying to digest a heavy meal, then you’re well aware that what you eat has an impact on your sleep. While these might be extreme examples that cause the odd disruption, your overall nutrition has an important role in how well you sleep and deficiencies can contribute to insomnia.

When it comes to a great night’s sleep minerals like magnesium and potassium, and omega 3 essential fatty acids are the powerhouses. Here are eight foods that will help you sleep!

Swiss Chard

Move over kale, this dark leafy green is rich in both magnesium and potassium and will have you sleeping like a baby in no time. Put a handful in a smoothie or try it in this Green Chickpea Chicken Coconut Curry from The Crepes of Wrath.

Avocado

A good source of potassium, I know what you know what to do with an avocado. Whip up some avo-toast with your favourite toppings or swap bananas for avocados to make your smoothie ultra-rich.

Pumpkin Seeds

These tasty little guys are often tapped as a great source of zinc, but they are actually an even greater source of magnesium. Use them like you would any nut or seed. I love them in this paleo-friendly Tuna Salad from Against All Grain.

Salmon

Salmon is high in Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, particularly DHA – a precursor to melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Keep your eyes peeled for wild-caught salmon, which has more of those good fats that you want. Try my favourite Salmon Burgers or Martha Stewart’s Wild Salmon with Lentils (bonus: the lentils will also give you a dose of potassium).

Walnuts

Sprinkle ye walnuts from on high for some more of those healthy Omega-3’s! Why not try swapping out almond milk for walnut milk in your smoothies? Give ‘em a soak and then follow my instructions for Homemade Nut and Seed Milk.

Spinach

Another leafy green, another great source of both magnesium and potassium. I love a handful of raw spinach in a salad, but you could also, I don’t know, put it on top of these amazing looking Chipotle Mashed Potatoes like Jessica Murnane did.

Black Beans

High in magnesium, black beans will help give you a good night’s rest. If Minimalist Baker’s Black Bean Brownies aren’t your thing maybe this Black Bean and Butternut Soup from Sprouted Kitchen is.

Quinoa

Quinoa is a great source of magnesium, so load up on those grain bowls! Use it wherever you would use rice.

Raw Cacao

Yes, chocolate. Raw cacao is a good source of magnesium. Careful, while a good store of magnesium can help ward-off insomnia, the caffeine in cacao might keep you up. Solution? Have this Chocolate Covered Cherry Smoothie from Simple Green Smoothies for breakfast!

Bonus: Supplement with Magnesium Citrate

When I was in nutrition school my classmates teased me for my love of magnesium citrate! But, it has amazing calming effects and a dose of magnesium citrate dissolved into a mug of hot water with a splash of lemon before bed is the ticket to the best. sleep. ever. This is one supplement I use regularly myself and recommend to clients for all kinds of reasons.

A great night’s sleep starts on your plate! Incorporate some of these foods into your daily diet and you’ll be hanging in dreamland before you know it.