Eat to Sleep
Prepared by Nutritionist Chen Yin
Sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep has been associated with health problems such as heart disease, mood disorders, obesity, and compromised immunity.1 Therapy for sleep via medications has always been a common solution to improve sleep quality. However, with the increasing concern on the detrimental effects of the medications, consumers tend to opt for natural sleep aids that are both safe and effective for better sleep. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones out there.
Melatonin, a hormone that is naturally produced in our brain which has the function of regulating sleep-wake cycles. It is likely the most well-known natural sleep aid and is commonly used for people experiencing jet lag. Many researches demonstrated that melatonin is very effective in improving sleep quality by inducing and maintaining sleep in both children and adults.2,3
(Natural sources: Tart cherries, tomatoes, barley, rolled oats, nuts, and seeds)
Magnesium is often referred to as a sleep mineral that relieves stress, produces a calming effect, and promotes overall relaxation and restful sleep. It has been shown to involve in energy production, muscle contraction, nerve function, and blood glucose control, which can be directly related to the ability to fall and stay asleep comfortably.4
(Natural sources: Banana, dark leafy vegetables, and fatty fish)
Calcium helps our body better utilize and regulate tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to increase melatonin levels. It also helps in muscle relaxation and stress relief. Studies showed that calcium-rich diets help to relieve insomnia and a lack of calcium may lead to nighttime awakenings and difficulty falling back to sleep.5
(Natural sources: Milk, cheese, yogurt, soybeans, and fortified cereals)
In terms of herbs, valerian is by far the most famous and well-researched sleep aid. It has been demonstrated to relieve insomnia and improve sleep quality by reducing the time required to fall asleep and promoting sound sleep throughout the night.6 Another popular herb that you may hear of is chamomile which is widely consumed as a tea. It has been shown to have sedative properties that promote a better sleep.7
- Medic, Goran et al. “Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption.” Nature and science of sleep vol. 9 151-161. 19 May. 2017, doi:10.2147/NSS.S134864
- Auld F, Maschauer EL, Morrison I, Skene DJ, Riha RL. Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev. 2017;34:10-22.
- Li T, Jiang S, Han M, et al. Exogenous melatonin as a treatment for secondary sleep disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2019;52:22-28.
- Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-9.
- Grandner, Michael A et al. “Sleep symptoms associated with intake of specific dietary nutrients.” Journal of sleep research vol. 23,1 (2014): 22-34. doi:10.1111/jsr.12084
- Stevinson C, Ernst E. Valerian for insomnia: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Sleep Med 2000;1:91-99.
- Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Rep. 2010;3(6):895–901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377