6 Foods That Help You Sleep When You’re Anxious About The Next Day, According To Experts
Whenever I'm most desperate to fall into a nice, easy, deep sleep — i.e. right before a stressful event, or even before a long day of traveling — I seem to toss and turn for hours. I start worrying about all of the little details that could go wrong the next day, from sleeping through my alarm to forgetting important information. When counting sheep just doesn't cut it, experts say these six foods can help you sleep when you're anxious.
But before I get into what those foods are, exactly, it's important to note that the occasional case of nervousness is not the same as clinical anxiety, which can't be "cured" with a cup of tea or a slice of warm toast. If your anxious thoughts are inhibiting your everyday life, be sure to check in with a mental health professional for some individualized guidance. If you're just feeling queasy about a big test or an upcoming job interview, on the other hand, munching on a couple of key foods before you hit the hay might be able to help.
The thing is, how you eat these bedtimes snacks could be just as important as what you actually eat, especially if your goal is to truly soothe some anxious feels. Gordon Ly, a registered dietitian at the Copeman Healthcare Centre in Vancouver, suggests focusing your energy on genuinely enjoying whatever foods you nom on at night by eating them mindfully. In other words, ditch your Twitter feed during snack time, as well as that Friends episode you're half-watching in the background. "You might also consider sitting down, closing your eyes, and chewing slowly to really maximize the senses and eat slowly," he tells Elite Daily.
Of course, there's no singular recipe for the foods that can help you drift off before a big day, says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com. "Most people notice a better sleep when they combine 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates in their evening snacks; however, some people do better without carbohydrates later at night," he explains. "So, listen to your body. If snacking late doesn’t sound good, then just incorporate these foods into your dinner."
Sip on chamomile tea
"Chamomile tea is one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety and prepare oneself for a restful sleep," says certified nutritionist Melissa Ronda. "Chamomile contains apigenin, which is an antioxidant that binds to specific receptors in your brain that are known to promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia," she explains.
But there's more to drinking a mug of tea than just what's inside. It turns out that the actual act of brewing a mug can help calm your body and mind, too, according to Ronda. "The nightly ritual of sipping on the hot tea triggers the body to begin powering down for the evening," she tells Elite Daily.
Combine some milk and walnuts (yes, really)
The traditional wisdom that suggests a warm glass of milk can help your body relax enough for bedtime is actually pretty legit, according to Ly. He recommends sipping on a cup of cow's milk along with a handful of walnuts — two tasty foods that will help your body fall asleep more easily because they aid melatonin (a sleep hormone) production, Ly explains.
Savor a slice of warm bread
"Tryptophan is an amino acid that can help the brain get into a relaxed state, similar to serotonin and melatonin," says Dr. Axe. "You can obtain tryptophan and serotonin from carbohydrates, particularly 100 percent whole grain oats, brown rice, corn, or quinoa."
I'm guessing you probably don't want to just hunker down and eat a big bowl of plain corn or oats right before bed. (I mean, if you do, no judgment at all, friend.) As an alternative, try to really double up on the carbs by making Alton Brown's oatmeal banana bread recipe, which, IMO, pairs really nicely with a glass of milk.
Munch on a banana
Speaking of bananas, the sweet fruit isn't only good for its carb content. "Bananas are high in potassium, a mineral that is essential to achieving a deep night’s sleep," says nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto. "Bananas also contain tryptophan and magnesium, making this fruit nature’s little sleep wonder."
Snack on some sushi
If you're feeling too nervous about an important upcoming presentation to doze off, try grabbing some of your favorite sushi rolls to help lull your body into a deep slumber. Fish, especially salmon, tuna, and halibut, is rich in vitamin B6, which your body needs to produce melatonin, clinical dietitian Becky Kerkenbush, MS, RD-AP, CSG, CD, tells Elite Daily in an email. Just make sure you get any wayward seaweed out of your teeth before you have to present.
Blend up a cherry smoothie
BTW, there's a fair amount of science behind this one: For instance, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that cherry juice may be linked to "significant reductions in insomnia severity." Sounds like it's worth a shot, right?