5 Foods That Boost Melatonin That Are Great Snacks When You Can't Fall Asleep

The last time I went out of town, I forgot one crucial item on my packing list. I remembered my toothbrush and my phone charger, but managed to leave my trusty bottle of melatonin supplements on the counter at home. Without the sleep aid, I found myself desperate to drift off long into the night. That's when I figured I might as well dig into a bedtime snack to help ease my body into a good night's sleep. If you're looking for a natural way to fall asleep, try munching on these foods that boost melatonin.

Rebecca Park, a registered nurse in New York City and founder of RemediesForMe.com, tells Elite Daily that melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in your brain. "Melatonin helps you to fall asleep and improves the quality of your sleep by relaxing and calming your body down before bedtime," she explains in an email.

The powerful hormone isn't only effective in helping you sleep like a baby, though. According to Park, it has a number of other physical and mental health benefits. As a powerful antioxidant, melatonin can help your body fight cancer, she says. Melatonin-rich foods also benefit your eye health, help with stomach ulcers and heartburn, and work to regulate your blood pressure and hormone levels. Your mind also stands to gain from the hormone's effects, because getting healthy levels of melatonin can help prevent seasonal affective disorder, as per Park.

So whether you love a savory treat before bed or opt for sweets every time, here are some delicious ways to boost your natural melatonin.

1. Chicken

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You might know turkey's reputation for making you want a nap, but it turns out that chicken is also effective at calming down your body. The protein source has lots of a specific amino acid called tryptophan, Rachel Fine MS, RD, CSSD, CDN tells Elite Daily. "It helps your body make serotonin (a relaxing mood hormone) which then helps your body make melatonin (a hormone that controls sleep cycles)," she says. So the next time you're looking for extra help hitting the hay, make yourself a plate of chicken nuggets, and enjoy.

2. Nut Butter

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Peanut butter is deliciously creamy, pretty inexpensive, and one of the few condiments that can easily cross from sweet to savory. If you love nut butter, you're in luck, because Haley Hughes MS, RD, CDE, CF-L1 tells Elite Daily that the spectacular food is a good source of magnesium, which helps regulate melatonin. If peanuts aren't your jam (I had to incorporate a PB&J pun.), you'll still be reaping the sleep benefits by eating cashew butter, almond butter, or Brazil nuts.

3. Cherries

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One of the biggest habits that keeps me from drifting off is making to-do lists in my head. With nothing to do but stretch out in my bed and stare at the ceiling, my brain automatically starts stressing out.

If you can relate, try incorporating cherries into your nighttime snack routine. The sweet fruit can help you feel calmer, according to Tamryn Burgess, resident nutritionist and wellness expert for Skin Care Ox. While cherries are scrumptious on their own, Burgess also recommends making a cherry smoothie made with frozen cherries, banana, and some almond milk for a treat that will keep you from waking up at 2 a.m. with a grumbling stomach.

4. Dark Chocolate

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Is there anything dark chocolate can't do? If so, I haven't found it yet, because the rich treat is high in magnesium. Hughes explains that magnesium not only calms your nervous system and relaxes your muscles, but it also regulates your body's melatonin levels.

Hello, hot chocolate before bed. Goodbye, desperately counting sheep.

5. Oats

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If you're someone who loves warm cookies before bed, I can totally relate. Frankly, even such a delicious treat has the potential to help your body stick to a healthy sleep schedule. "Oats are a natural source of melatonin," nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto tells Elite Daily in an email. "If you need a snack before bed, have a small bowl of oatmeal or a healthy oat cookie." If you really want some melatonin power, savor a dark chocolate and oatmeal cookie.