Essential nutrients for better sleep include B vitamins, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, lycopene, selenium, and tryptophan. Although these can be obtained through foods that you eat, you may also need to take supplements to get enough in your diet.
Sleep is an extremely important part of being healthy. Not only does it play a role in heightened brain function and clarity, many health conditions can be linked to a lack of sleep or decreased sleep quality. Weight gain and obesity, especially, are shown to be partly due to lack of sleep. Eating healthier, which includes taking in certain nutrients as well as eating less in general, leads to more sleep and better quality slumber.
Vitamins that tend to help with better sleep are vitamin C and the B complex vitamins. The B vitamins are especially touted as being helpful for sleep, as is explained by the National Library of Medicine.
There are eight B vitamins that make up the entire complex and some are recommended for better sleep more than others are. In general, B vitamins help your body deal better with stress and help get more oxygen to the brain. The majority of them are beneficial to the nervous system, which is essential for a good night of sleep.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, helps decrease disturbances in sleep. Vitamin B12, aka cyanocobalamin, affects your circadian rhythm. People under a lot of anxiety and stress, as well as those who drink and smoke, need to get more B vitamins in their system, as they are depleted quite quickly.
Many foods are good sources of B complex vitamins. These include leafy green vegetables, seafood, poultry, bananas, fortified cereals, and potatoes. Natural sources of B12 can only be found in animal-based foods and some of the best are beef, fish, and shellfish. You can also get it through fortified foods.
Ironically, the B vitamins should not be taken too close to bedtime. Doing so can actually result in insomnia and trouble sleeping.
Vitamin C can be beneficial for good sleep but it needs to be taken in large quantities. Vitamin C helps the body deal with stress and it supports the effects of B vitamins. It also has somewhat of a sedative effect if a large enough dose is taken.
There are certain minerals that also support better sleep. Calcium is calming to the nervous system and is an insomnia aid. That is one of the reasons why people recommend warm milk to help you fall asleep. Keep in mind that, in order for calcium to be absorbed, you also need vitamin D. Calcium can be obtained through supplements or food sources. Dairy sources such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are good, as are broccoli, kale, Chinese cabbage, and other vegetables. The Office of Dietary Supplements lists more food sources and their amounts of calcium.
Potassium is another mineral that is good for sleep. It helps with transmission of nerve impulses and with delivering oxygen to the brain. Lack of potassium also leads to muscle cramps, which can contribute to sleep disturbances. If you ever wake up with a leg muscle cramp you are more than likely deficient in potassium.
Many people give props to bananas for being good sources of potassium. While they are, there are still better sources. These include sweet potatoes, oranges, beet greens, potatoes, white beans, dates, yogurt, tomatoes, and raisins.
Selenium is a trace mineral that has been shown to be deficient in short sleepers. Low selenium intake has been associated with hypothyroidism development. People who don’t get enough tend to have fatigue and a slower metabolism, but also don’t sleep as well.
Selenium is best gotten from food. Sources include fish such as cod, tuna, and halibut; shellfish; nuts; turkey; and barley.
Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been recommended to help promote better sleep. Science Daily reports that people who had lower intakes of lycopene had nights of very short sleep when compared to those who were able to sleep for longer periods of time.
Because of its healing abilities, lycopene has also long been promoted for fighting off cancer, as the American Cancer Society reports. You can easily get lycopene from food sources, especially tomatoes, apricots, watermelons, pink guavas, and pink grapefruits.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is essential, which means that your body does not produce it on its own. It helps to synthesize proteins in the body, especially messengers of the nervous system. It is well known to help with restfulness, relaxation, and sleep. It is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps sleep regulation.
Tryptophan supplements are hard to find, which is okay because it is prevalent in most protein-rich foods. Good sources are red meat, nuts, legumes, seeds, dairy products, turkey, soy products, shellfish, and tuna.