Proper sleep is essential for optimal muscle repair and growth. Unfortunately, many of us don't get anywhere near the recommended 7-9 hours per night.[1] Sleep is essential for the production of growth hormone, which is a muscle-building hormone released during your deepest sleep.[2] The less sleep you get, the less growth hormone released. Late-night YouTube binging could be why your six-pack is a few cans short.

And if you want to lose weight, skimping on sleep may make it harder to eat healthy. A study out of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that sleep restriction works to heighten your response to food, making it much harder to turn down the golden arches on your drive home.[3] Plus, lack of sleep may increase the circulation of endocannabinoid in the blood, which works to increase your desire to eat by heightening the pleasure you receive from food.[4]

Thankfully, a better night's rest could be as simple as a trip to the supermarket. Use these edibles to build a sleep-friendly diet and get ready to feel energized like never before.

1. Salmon

Reeling in salmon more often for dinner may help you net better zzz's. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine discovered that people who consumed salmon three times a week for a six-month period reached deep sleep more quickly compared to subjects who got more of their protein from chicken, beef or pork.[5]

Vitamin D deficiency is linked with impaired sleep quality. Salmon is one of the few food sources of vitamin D.

Researchers found that the group who ate more salmon had less variation in their heart-beat intervals and higher levels of vitamin D, both of which may have a positive impact on sleep patterns.[5] Plus, it appears that vitamin-D deficiency—which is fairly common—negatively influences sleep quality and quantity.[6,7] Good thing salmon provides between 600-1,000 IU per 3-ounce serving![8]

Need to know: For the most flavorful and sustainable catch of the day, cast your line for salmon labeled "wild" at the fishmonger. And don't overlook canned salmon, which offers a cost-effective and convenient source of sleep-inducing nutrition. Mackerel, sardines, herring, and sablefish are other fatty fish that may also help knock you out.

2. Beans

Here's a good reason to spill the beans more often: A 2016 study from Columbia Medical School determined that consuming a high-fiber diet can help you spend more time in slow-wave sleep, a stage of deep sleep that is particularly restorative to the body.[9] Beans are an excellent source of fiber—a half-cup has 15 grams!

Consider beans as a daily staple to keep energy and sleep quality at a premium.

Researchers found that adding high-fiber options to a diet normally laden in saturated fat and sugar had a powerful impact on sleep quality. A greater sugar intake is associated with more arousals from sleep, which could leave you feeling less than peppy on the gym floor.[9] Perhaps improvements in blood glucose control brought about by a diet rich in fiber and low in processed sugars helps encourage improved sleep quality.

Need to know: It's hard to go wrong with any bean choice, as they are all packed with fiber, so look for ways to work them into your diet more often. Toss them onto salads, add them to soups and tacos, or even mix them into a breakfast scramble.

3. Tart Cherry Juice

George Washington must have not given a damn about his sleep, or he would have never chopped down his father's cherry tree. Research suggests that sipping tart cherry juice can bring about improved sleep quality and duration.[10-12]

Tart cherry juice contains melatonin, which is a hormone that may help support sound sleep habits.

How? The naturally occurring melatonin present in the lip-puckering fruit may work to give it insomnia-busting powers. Melatonin is a hormone that may help support sound sleep habits.

Need to know: When shopping for tart cherry juice, look for brands that are made with 100 percent cherry juice. Skip products diluted with cheap fillers like apple juice. Or, better yet, turn to tart cherry concentrate, which is a syrupy, highly concentrated version of regular tart cherry juice that can be mixed with water.

If you're having sleeping difficulties, mix 2 tablespoons tart cherry concentrate with a cup of water and drink it an hour or two before you hit the hay.

4. Soy Nuts

These crunchy nuggets are made from soaked whole soybeans that are roasted until crispy. Due to their high isoflavone content, they may just hold the secret weapon to a restful night's snooze. A study out of the Nutrition Journal discovered that a higher isoflavone intake was associated with improved sleep duration and quality among 1,076 adults.[13]

These crunchy nuggets contain isoflavones, which may help to regulate sleep habits.

Isoflavones have a mild estrogenic effect, and since estrogen plays a role in sleep regulation, it makes sense that greater intakes could help you score better shut-eye. Soy nuts happen to contain a large amount of isoflavones, which may be why they work great as a nutty nightcap.

Need to know: Look for dry roasted soy nuts to sidestep the poor-quality vegetable oils often used in oil-roasted versions. Tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milk, and flax are other ways to add some isoflavones into your diet to improve your sleep.

5. Pistachios

Pistachios provide fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fats, and a couple handfuls each day could help you snooze better. The green nuts are a good source of vitamin B-6, a vitamin our bodies need to make slumber-inducing melatonin and the neurotransmitter serotonin.[14,15]

Pistachios are an excellent source of vitamin b6, which plays a role in sleep-inducing melatonin production.

Consider chopping them up and adding them to your dinner salad, or slather some pistachio butter on a few whole-grain crackers or apple slices as part of a bedtime snack.

Need to know: If you have trouble practicing portion control when it comes to such a delicious nut, purchase unshelled pistachios. Scientists at Eastern Illinois University found that snacking on unshelled pistachios can help control your intake.[16] Having to shell the nuts slows down your eating.

  1. Altevogt, B. M., & Colten, H. R. (Eds.). (2006). Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. National Academies Press.
  2. Takahashi, Y., Kipnis, D.M. & Daughaday, W.H. (1968). Growth Hormone Secretion During SleepJournal of Clinical Investigation, 47, 2079-2090.
  3. St-Onge, M. P., McReynolds, A., Trivedi, Z. B., Roberts, A. L., Sy, M., & Hirsch, J. (2012). Sleep restriction leads to increased activation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuliThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(4), 818-824.
  4. Hanlon, E. C., Tasali, E., Leproult, R., Stuhr, K. L., Doncheck, E., de Wit, H., ... & Van Cauter, E. (2015). Sleep Restriction Enhances the Daily Rhythm of Circulating Levels of Endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerolSleep, 39(3), 653-664.
  5. Hansen, A. L., Dahl, L., Olson, G., Thornton, D., Graff, I. E., Frøyland, L., ... & Pallesen, S. (2014). Fish consumption, sleep, daily functioning, and heart rate variabilityJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM: Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 10(5), 567.
  6. Dahlquist, D. T., Dieter, B. P., & Koehle, M. S. (2015). Plausible ergogenic effects of vitamin D on athletic performance and recoveryJournal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 1-12.
  7. Massa, J., Stone, K. L., Wei, E. K., Harrison, S. L., Barrett-Connor, E., Lane, N. E., ... & Schernhammer, E. (2014). Vitamin D and actigraphic sleep outcomes in older community-dwelling men: the MrOS sleep studySleep, 38(2), 251-257.
  8. Lu, Z., Chen, T. C., Zhang, A., Persons, K. S., Kohn, N., Berkowitz, R., ... & Holick, M. F. (2007). An evaluation of the vitamin D 3 content in fish: is the vitamin D content adequate to satisfy the dietary requirement for vitamin DThe Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 103(3), 642-644.
  9. St-Onge, M. P., Roberts, A., Shechter, A., & Choudhury, A. R. (2015). Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave SleepJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM: Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
  10. Pigeon, W. R., Carr, M., Gorman, C., & Perlis, M. L. (2010). Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot studyJournal of Medicinal Food, 13(3), 579-583.
  11. Howatson, G., Bell, P. G., Tallent, J., Middleton, B., McHugh, M. P., & Ellis, J. (2012). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep qualityEuropean Journal of Nutrition, 51(8), 909-916.
  12. Garrido, M., González-Gómez, D., Lozano, M., Barriga, C., Paredes, S. D., & Moratinos, A. B. R. (2013). A Jerte Valley cherry product provides beneficial effects on sleep quality. Influence on agingThe Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 17(6), 553-560.
  13. Cui, Y., Niu, K., Huang, C., Momma, H., Guan, L., Kobayashi, Y., ... & Nagatomi, R. (2015). Relationship between daily isoflavone intake and sleep in Japanese adults: a cross-sectional studyNutrition Journal, 14(1), 1.
  14. Peuhkuri, K., Sihvola, N., & Korpela, R. (2012). Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin. Food & Nutrition Research, 56.
  15. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). November 2013.
  16. Honselman, C. S., Painter, J. E., Kennedy-Hagan, K. J., Halvorson, A., Rhodes, K., Brooks, T. L., & Skwir, K. (2011). In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nutsAppetite, 57(2), 414-417.

About the Author

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MSc., is a registered dietitian based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He works full-time as a freelance nutrition writer...

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