Food, Drinks, and Supplements: How Do They Affect Sleep Quality?

Have you ever heard that certain foods can help improve sleep quality? For example, some claim that eating pistachios, bananas, and kiwis can improve sleep. Pistachios, for example, contain melatonin, an important component of sleep. But for the body to produce even 25% of the melatonin that it does organically, you'd need to eat 400 grams of the nut. A feat, by the way, that is almost impossible. In other words, limiting blue light for 2 hours before bedtime can do much more to produce melatonin than 400 grams of pistachios.

Key takeaways:
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    Eat two to three hours before bed, and no later. Otherwise, the body will work hard to digest food, interfering with relaxation.
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    If you have trouble sleeping, avoid intermittent fasting.
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    Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Water is the healthiest drink for sleep. Just don’t overdrink it.
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    A balanced diet can achieve a much better effect than any supplement.

There are certainly more impactful ways to encourage better sleep, such as no screen time before bed and keeping the bedroom cool and dark, but what you eat before bed can also affect sleep quality.

Foods to eat and avoid

If you go to bed between 10 and 11 p.m., your sleep ritual begins 2 to 3 hours before bed. Blue light blocking and stress management exercises have important roles in your routine. But let’s not forget the food, as it also has a huge effect on sleep.

The ideal time to eat before bed is:

  • Eat two to three hours before bed, and no later. Otherwise, the body will work hard to digest food, interfering with relaxation.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, avoid intermittent fasting during which, for example, you do not eat for 18 hours. It may increase cortisol, which interferes with melatonin production.

Foods you should avoid eating include:

  • Avoid heavy, fatty foods.
  • Do not eat a lot of carbohydrates, although a small amount, such as 20 grams of rice, can trigger insulin, resulting in more amino acids, including tryptophan, which helps synthesize melatonin.
  • Avoid bacon, cheese, chocolate, potatoes, and tomatoes. They contain tyramine, which acts as a stimulant.

Food on your should-eat list includes:

  • Eat foods containing tryptophan or serotonin, as this helps to produce melatonin. Examples include turkey, salmon, eggs, and cherries.
  • Choose foods containing probiotics, because biomass helps fight stress. Examples include pickled products and good fats; avoid sweeteners.
  • Foods containing nitric oxides, such as beets and spinach, dilate blood vessels and stimulate blood circulation, which help to reduce your body temperature.

These dinner combinations will help encourage a good night's sleep.

  • Salmon, and a vegetable salad with a spoonful of olive oil and spinach
  • Turkey, with vegetables, 30 grams of rice, and beets
  • 30 grams of oatmeal with cherries and nuts

Try one of these options for dinner this week, eating at 7 p.m. You will feel full but not heavy, which will allow you to sleep well.

Drinks and sleep quality

The first rule is to avoid caffeine and alcohol. And water, of course, is the healthiest drink for sleep. Just don’t overdrink it, so you don’t have to go to the bathroom during the night.

Other sleep-enhancing drinks to consider include:

  • Honey, apple cider vinegar, and lemon: Honey stimulates the release of serotonin, vinegar encourages tryptophan, and lemon is rich in vitamin C.
  • Chamomile tea with ghee butter and MCT (coconut oil): It’s a great blend of good fat and relaxation, and you’ll avoid glucose spikes at night.
  • Hot milk and honey: A drink used in ancient India, the combination of these two ingredients is both delicious and effective.
  • Milk, coconut milk, cocoa, and salt: A tasty drink to help relax and control glucose spikes at night.

Fasting and sleep quality

There are several people for whom intermittent fasting helps regulate the circadian rhythm, and this positively affects sleep quality. On the other hand, some react completely differently, and intermittent fasting leads to insomnia, likely due to the excessive release of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the evening. Therefore, you need to pay attention to your rhythm.

The fact is that circadian rhythm determines the quality of our sleep, physical capacity, and digestion of food. Satchidananda Panda is one of the best-known researchers of circadian rhythms, providing ample evidence for time-restricted eating.

According to Panda's research, those who consume their food in an 8 to 9-hour time frame are significantly healthier, more physically fit, and sleep better than those who eat for 15 hours a day. The difference with intermittent fasting is that even coffee and tea, except water, are considered food that inflames the body and disrupts the circadian rhythm of the liver or stomach. But with intermittent fasting, coffee tea, or other calorie-free drinks can be consumed.

Therefore, if you want to improve your health, including the quality of your sleep, you should eat between the eight to nine-hour time frame, including drinks.

Supplements and sleep quality

Supplements will not solve all your sleeping problems, but with the right sleep routine, you can use them to improve both the duration and quality of your sleep. First, please remember that it is always best to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Sleep supplements are divided into two categories, sleep-promoting supplements and relaxants that promote relaxation, like fighting stress.

  • Sleep stimulants: Melatonin supplements are recommended to use when you're battling insomnia or jet lag. It is also a hormone we already produce, so you may want to avoid using it and instead choose an amino acid-like 5HTP or tryptophan. It’s a natural, protein-derived substance converted to melatonin in the body.
  • Relaxants: Magnesium and adaptogens, such as ashwagandha and rhodiola rosea, may help with stress relief. When it comes to magnesium, absorption is crucial. The world's most common magnesium types are oxide and nitrate, and these are not the best absorbed and do not cross the blood-brain barrier. Much better types of magnesium are magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium threonate.

Other supplements can contribute to the quality of your sleep, including:

  • Taurine, which has a relaxing effect
  • Zinc, magnesium, and b6
  • L-theanine (200-400mg), a component in green tea
  • Linden blossom tea, chamomile tea, lemon balm tea, soothing teas that will calm you
  • MCT oil, a good quality fat that will maintain a stable blood glucose level during your sleep

Keep in mind that a balanced diet can achieve a much better effect than any supplement.