Daylight savings. Two words that illicit mixed emotions for people. While many welcome longer days, anyone with small children knows all too well the dread of “spring forward” and the adjustment period required for that lost hour of sleep. Many Americans already operate on a serious sleep deficit, so losing this precious hour doesn’t help matters. Although sleep is central to our health and well-being, just as proper nutrition, it is still something many don’t make a priority.

While we may not get enough sleep for a variety of reasons, there are healthy changes we can make to our diet to ensure that the sleep we do get is as beneficial as possible.

Foods for Better Sleep

While many people associate turkey with sleep due to its tryptophan content, it is actually its pairing with carbohydrates that makes us sleepy. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with mood and sleep. Carbohydrates help shuttle tryptophan into the brain so that it can be used to make serotonin. The best carbohydrates for the job are complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, popcorn, or oatmeal.  

Dairy foods are also rich in tryptophan. So that glass of warm milk at bedtime your grandmother used to give you is beneficial. Try an updated version with this Lavender Milk Steamer, which is the perfect before-bed treat. 

Other good choices for sleep-inducing snacks  are combination foods like cottage cheese paired with fresh fruit, yogurt with low-sugar granola or sliced cheese and whole wheat crackers. Tryptophan is also found in eggs, nuts, seeds, salmon, tofu and pineapple.

By limiting caffeine and alcohol before bed, which disturb sleep, and eating regular meals throughout the day with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, you can keep energy levels more stable which in turn, will promote overall health.     

Ann Dunaway Teh is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She is passionate about menu planning and helping families eat better together through her website My Menu Pal.