At Bearaby, we’re all about optimizing sleep in every possible way - and this includes food. You may not have considered that the meals we eat, especially close to bedtime, can play a big role in how well we sleep that night. If you want a deep dive into the nutrients that can help to improve your sleep, head to this article for our top snooze-inducing foods.
For a shortened version, there are some vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that can help our bodies and brains get ready for sleeping. The mineral magnesium can lead to relaxation by suppressing adrenaline and increasing the production of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter (AKA brain chemical) that helps you get to sleep.
Tryptophan (which most of us know for its role in promoting post-Thanksgiving-turkey naps), is an amino acid (which is a building block of proteins) that goes through a conversion process to become serotonin and then into melatonin, which is our main sleepy hormone.
Vitamin B6 is another all-star for promoting snoozing, as it helps tryptophan with its conversion process to melatonin. These nutrients and amino acids are found primarily in poultry, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, fish, bananas, avocado, and tart cherry juice.
A few other important things you want to consider about your nighttime noshing include how easy it is to digest, how stimulating it is, and how spicy it is. Generally, greasy or high-fat meals shortly before bed can lead to some discomfort and indigestion while you’re trying to snooze. The same goes for spicy foods unless you’re used to them, as the extra heat can lead to some reflux once you go horizontal. Stimulating foods you’ll want to avoid include anything with caffeine (sorry chocoholics, that includes your post-dinner Hersheys fix), too much sugar, and alcohol too close to bedtime.
If you’re not too sure about what to cook that meets all of these qualifications, we’ve got you covered with five simple and healthy recipes you can make to help you sleep better tonight. We’ll start with dinner, work our way into dessert, and end with a cozy and warming (non-alcoholic) nightcap that will have you snoozing in no time.
1. Portobello Mushroom Burgers
Mushrooms are a great source of dietary melatonin and a tasty meal for Meatless Monday. If you’re not familiar with portobello mushroom burgers, the large mushroom cap replaces a traditional beef patty. Due to their thick, meaty texture, portobellos make the perfect substitute for a vegetarian night. Marinating the mushrooms ahead of time leads to an even more flavorful burger.
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
- 4 portobello mushroom caps
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Buns or bread of choice
- Burger fixin’s: Lettuce, red onion, cheese, avocado, tomato - anything you’d like!
- Marinate cleaned mushroom caps in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, salt, and pepper for about 20 minutes.
- Cook them on a grill, grill pan, or in a large pan for about 5-8 minutes per side.
- If using, add cheese towards the end so it can melt onto the mushrooms.
2. One-Pot Chicken And Veggie Soup
Similar to turkey, chicken is another source of tryptophan that can help you produce more melatonin. This meal is perfect for a clean-out-the-fridge kind of night, and its lightness makes it easy to digest before bed. This is just a skeleton of a recipe, so feel free to add or mix and match with whatever vegetables you love or have on hand.
Ingredients: (Serves 6)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Vegetables: Onion, garlic, carrots, celery, potato...or anything else!
- Chicken: About 2 cups of cooked and shredded or cubed chicken
- Broth: About 6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
- Spices: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried basil, oregano...or anything else!
- Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot.
- Add chopped vegetables and minced garlic; cook until softened.
- Add chicken and broth; bring to a simmer.
- Cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes, check to make sure all vegetables are cooked through.
3. Avocado Banana “Nice Cream” With Walnuts
Rather than making ice cream at home, try “nice cream”! This delicious dessert is dairy-free and made with blended bananas. This time, we also add in avocado and walnuts for some magnesium and healthy fats to support serotonin production. Blender is required!
Ingredients: (Serves 2)
- 2 bananas; cut in small chunks and previously frozen
- 1 ripe avocado, removed from skin and frozen
- ½ cup of coconut milk
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- Blend everything in a high-powered blender, adding the coconut milk slowly at first.
- Use the tamper to push down the sides and add more milk if needed.
- Blend until the mixture starts to resemble ice cream.
- Top with chopped walnuts; serve immediately.
4. Coconut Chia Seed Pudding With Tart Cherries
Another tasty and healthy dessert option (which could make the cut for breakfast as well) utilizes chia seeds and tart cherries to get your sleepiness activated. Chia seeds have the wonderful ability to swell up and absorb the liquid they are in, creating a creamy pudding-like consistency.
Ingredients: (Serves 1)
- 1 bag of chamomile tea
- 8 ounces of milk of your choice
- 1 tsp powdered turmeric or freshly grated turmeric root
- 1 tsp honey or stevia (optional)
- Warm up the milk in a small saucepan until steaming.
- Turn off heat and add chamomile tea bag, steep for about 5 minutes.
- Add turmeric and sweetener, if using.
- Stir well, ideally with a hand frother, or add to a heat-resistant blender and blend until frothed.
5. Cozy Turmeric And Chamomile Tea Latte
Your mom wasn’t wrong when she would make you some warm milk before bed when you were a kid - the warmth does create a very calming and soothing way to drift off to sleep. Both regular dairy milk or a non-dairy alternative, like almond milk, would work for this recipe, so go with whichever you prefer! Feel free to add just a smidge of raw honey or stevia if you’re wanting something a tad sweeter.
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
- ½ cup chia seeds
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
- Sweetener: About 1 Tbsp of honey or stevia
- 1 tsp vanilla extract Tart cherries
- Add chia seeds, coconut milk, sweetener, and vanilla to a large bowl and mix well.
- Refrigerate overnight, or for a minimum of 4 hours, until chia seeds have absorbed coconut milk.
- Divide into 4 bowls and top with tart cherries.
5 Simple And Healthy Recipes That Promote Sleep
You may not have considered that the meals we eat, especially close to bedtime, can play a big role in how well we sleep that night. If you want a deep dive into the nutrients that can help to improve your sleep, head to this article for our top snooze-inducing foods.
Many foods can help promote sleep, including avocado, nuts, fish, poultry, seeds, and warm drinks.
We’ve got 5 healthy recipes for dinner and dessert to help your body produce more melatonin and get you ready for bed.
For Meatless Monday, try swapping out beef for portobello mushroom burgers and ending the night with coconut chia seed pudding!
Did you know?
Even decaf coffee still contains a little bit of caffeine, so try cutting it out completely if you’re having trouble getting to sleep.