Superfood No 4: Tart cherry juice
“Tart cherries have a high dietary melatonin concentration and have also been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory characteristics that may be beneficial in improving sleep quality,” explains Kristine Dilley, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. One small Louisiana State University study found that drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks increased both sleep time and sleep efficiency in adults with insomnia. Another study had 20 volunteers drink tart cherry juice or a placebo for seven days. Those who drank the cherry juice had significantly higher melatonin levels than those who didn’t.
As tart cherry juice contains natural sugars, Dilley warns that individuals with diabetes or conditions that make them sensitive to sugar intake should consult their physician before adding this to their daily routine. And when purchasing, opt for brands without added sugars.
Superfood No 5: Tea
Chamomile tea has been used for decades as a sleep aid for its calming and antioxidant properties. “It comes from a flower and is full of calming scents,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Chamomile also contains apigenin, a flavonoid (plant nutrient) that promotes sleepiness, she adds. A recent study that examined the effect of chamomile extract on the sleep habits of adults age 60 and older found that when compared to the placebo group, those who drank chamomile had significantly improved sleep quality.
But this classic isn’t the only type of herbal tea to try. Low-caffeine green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that research has found can help lower stress and significantly improve sleep quality. “And tea made from the herb lemon balm contains naturally occurring oils with terpenes, organic compounds that can promote relaxation and better sleep,” Hunnes says.
Superfood No. 6: Rice
One study of Japanese men and women found that a high dietary glycemic index and high rice consumption was significantly associated with good sleep. The study also looked at bread, which was not associated with sleep quality and found that noodles were linked to poor sleep.
Dilley recommends brown rice, which is higher in fiber. “In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, eating a higher fiber diet was associated with less nighttime awakenings and more restorative slow-wave sleep,” she explains. This effect, she says, could be due to the fact that fiber helps prevent blood sugar spikes that may lower melatonin. Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, a registered dietitian and founder of Hispanic Food Communications, recommends trying a rice-dairy combo of rice pudding with no added sugar or rice crackers or rice cakes with a glass of warm milk, as another optimal bedtime snack.
Superfood No. 7: Nuts
“Many nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios have melatonin, along with magnesium and zinc, which together can help people get a better night's sleep,” Melendez-Klinger says. Spread some nut butter on a rice cake for the ultimate before-bed snack. (Basic peanut butter and crackers works, too.) Or you could reach for a handful of Brazil nuts. A study by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago suggested that people who sleep less than five hours a night do not consume enough of the mineral selenium. “Thankfully, Brazil nuts are chock full of it, and eating just two per day can ensure your body is meeting the minimum requirements for this nutrient,” says Kaytee Hadley, a dietitian, health coach and founder of Holistic Health & Wellness.