You’ve brewed countless cups of chamomile, taken your fair share of restorative yoga classes, and even tried to shut the lights just a little bit earlier. After all, quality ZZZs affect everything from your eating habits to your immune system—and we doubt you have time to be bogged down by a pesky cold.
But if you still find yourself counting sheep (or reaching for a bottle of sleeping pills) on the regular, it may be time to change up your diet. “The foods you eat have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep,” says Jason Wrobel, a longevity-obsessed raw vegan chef with his own TV show on The Cooking Channel and a roster of celeb fans (think Woody Harrelson and Robin Wright). In his just-released first cookbook, Eaternity, he devotes an entire chapter to recipes that promote better sleep.
The need is pretty apparent to anyone with a functioning Keurig. “People are generally very overstimulated in our society,” he notes, pointing to caffeine and artificial sweeteners as some of the main culprits. Refilling your coffee cup over and over again throws off your adrenal glands, affecting the adrenal and nervous systems—and causing feelings of stress, anxiety, or the jitters. As in, the things that keep us lying awake in bed at night, or tossing and turning until the alarm goes off.
And this overstimulation doesn’t come without a cost—your body needs some snooze time to help it hit the refresh button. Working late and then waking up early to hit up power yoga may seem feasible for a little while, “but in the long run, you’re going to compromise your energy, memory, well-being, and longevity,” Wrobel warns. He recommends weaning yourself off of these stimulants throughout the day—especially caffeine—and getting your energy from more sustainable food sources at every meal.
Not sure what to stock up on to maximize the quality of your time under the covers? Wrobel picks his favorite sleep-enhancing foods based on key nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and tryptophan—which all play key roles in serious shut-eye. In an age of overachieving, it’s about time we all aim to be successful snoozers, too.
Keep reading for the 8 foods Wrobel says will have you asleep faster, longer, and deeper.
“Almonds are high in potassium and B vitamins, which help our nervous systems to relax,” says Wrobel. His super-sleep snack tip? Spread some almond butter on toast with banana slices (another sleep all-star)—no need to count sheep when your head hits the pillow.
Bananas, like almonds, are packed with B complex vitamins and potassium, making them one of Wrobel’s favorite “insomnia-fighting ingredients.” (We like to keep a supply of the natural muscle relaxant in the freezer for when our sweet tooth kicks in.)
3. Brown rice
“Brown rice is awesome because it contains GABA, which is a natural Ambien,” Wrobel says. If you’ve never heard of GABA (you’re definitely not alone on that one), you may want to get familiar with the amino acid. GABA—aka gamma-amino butyric acid—calms the nervous system and works almost like a natural, super-mellow tranquilizer.
Cherries allow the body to release melatonin, which Wrobel calls “the body clock hormone” because it promotes a cycle of falling asleep and waking up naturally. As in, the fruit will help you recalibrate the body when you’re dealing with a bout of jet lag.
Your sleep cycle’s new best friend? B vitamins. “Chickpeas boast vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin,” Wrobel notes, highlighting the legume’s deep sleep-inducing qualities. Munching on chickpeas throughout the day will help your body and your nervous system relax come bedtime, too.
Need some more convincing to pile your plate with kale? “Magnesium deficiency is a major cause of insomnia,” warns Wrobel, adding that many Americans don’t get enough magnesium. Good thing this dark, leafy green is packed with the mineral. Yet another reason to throw some kale in to your daily smoothie.
Sure, it’s a breakfast staple—but oatmeal will help you get your snooze on, too. Oats aid the body in releasing sleep hormones (think melatonin, yet again). In fact, Wrobel nicknames the grain a natural Ambien. Porridge for dinner, anyone?
“Walnuts are a great source of tryptophan, which is a sleep-enhancing amino acid,” explains Wrobel. In the brain, tryptophan is converted to serotonin, which induces sleep. Pop a few after dinner to get the body snooze-ready.
Still struggling with sleep? Here’s everything you need to know about maximizing your shut-eye.