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7 foods to help you sleep better

Getting better sleep is a puzzle -- and nutrition is an important piece of it.

avocado salmon and nuts
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When sleep is hard to come by, you'll do almost anything to catch some z's. From taking sleep supplements like melatonin to changing bedtime routines, most (exhausted) people will try a number of tricks to sleep better. But should you consider changing up your diet during the day to get better sleep?

According to nutrition pros, what you eat can certainly have an effect on your sleep. While there are a ton of factors that affect how well you sleep at night, it's worth taking a look at what you're eating each day to see if it's priming you for optimal rest later. 

"A balanced diet can help manage blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, which is important for preventing pain and getting sound sleep," says Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition. "Getting enough macronutrients (carbs, fats and protein) also assists your body in creating calming chemicals like serotonin and melatonin, which help you feel relaxed and sleepy."

Certain foods can help you sleep better if you eat them before bed or when you wake up in the middle of the night -- but the seven foods below can help you sleep better no matter when you eat them. Again, the key to eating well for sleep is to eat a mindful, balanced diet overall -- no one food is a magic bullet, but these can help you get some much-needed rest.

Nutrients that are vital for sleep

The foods below help you sleep better because they all contain nutrients that can promote better health in general, and in turn better sleep. "Eat a variety of unprocessed, whole foods that are high in antioxidants and fiber. Try to combine foods that provide different macronutrients (carbs, fats and protein), which ensures you're meeting your nutrient needs," says Axe. He also adds that it's a good idea to stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed so you have time to digest your food before going to sleep and don't run into issues with acid reflux.

Outside of the macronutrients, Axe says some micronutrients can affect sleep as well. So if you suspect you're deficient in something, you should ask your doctor to run labs to know more. "It's possible that a vitamin D or magnesium deficiency can interrupt sleep. Some evidence also shows that people low in vitamins E and C, and B12 and B6 might also suffer from more sleep problems," says Axe. "Each of these nutrients affects sleep cycles in a different way, such as by playing a role in your circadian rhythm and body's ability to produce melatonin and other calming chemicals."

yogurt with nuts and fruit

Yogurt, nuts and fruit are examples of foods that can help you sleep better.

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7 types of food to help you sleep better

"Sleep-promoting foods include those that contain tryptophan (an amino acid that helps with the release of serotonin), magnesium, vitamin D and complex carbs," says Axe. "Foods high in vitamin C and B vitamins can also be helpful."  

Below are Axe's top picks for sleep-promoting foods.

•   Whole grains like oats or quinoa

•   Proteins like poultry and fish

•   Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies

•   Free-range eggs

•   Bananas, kiwi, oranges, berries and other fruits

•   Milk and yogurt

•   Nuts like almonds and cashews

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.