When you hear the word “melatonin,” you may automatically think of the vitamin supplements people take to help them sleep better at night. But did you know that you can also get melatonin from the foods you eat?
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and is often called the “sleep hormone,” explains Paula Doebrich, RDN, MPH, owner of private nutrition practice, Happea Nutrition. “Melatonin responds to light—more is produced when it’s dark and less when it’s light. It can also be made from certain foods we eat.”
If you’re someone who’s looking to naturally get a good night’s rest, then it may be time to take a hard look at what you’re eating every day. From bananas to nuts, here are seven foods that can help you sleep better at night once you incorporate them into your diet. And next, don’t miss The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
Doebrich shares that nuts, of all kinds, are a great source of melatonin. “Pistachios and almonds have the highest amounts.” Both kinds of nuts also contain good amounts of magnesium, which is a mineral that may also help you achieve a better night’s rest.
There’s a reason why your mother may have told you to have a glass of milk before bed when you were younger. “Cow’s milk is another source of melatonin, so a glass of milk before bed might actually be a good idea,” Doebrich shares.
Interestingly enough, according to research, milk that has been collected at night, known as night milk, has even more sleep-promoting properties in it.
If you love cherries, then you’re in luck—tart cherry juice is one of the best sources of melatonin. Doebrich, however, advises that not all cherry juices are made equally when it comes to how much melatonin they may have. “Keep in mind that these findings are only true for tart cherry varieties such as the Montmorency. Not all cherries are as high in melatonin as this variety.”
If you do decide to give tart cherry juice a try, be sure to drink it in moderation, as some may be high in sugar.
Incorporate bananas into your evening snack if you find that you have trouble falling or staying asleep. “Bananas are another great source of melatonin and other nutrients that may help with sleep problems, such as vitamin B6 or magnesium,” says Doebrich.
Adding fresh fish into your diet may not only be healthy, it could also help improve your sleep quality.
“Oily fish, including sardines, trout, and salmon, are loaded with melatonin,” explains Monika Wassermann, MD, at olio lusso. “They also harbor a reasonable amount of omega-3 fatty acids that maintain healthy blood pressure levels.”
Eggs are another food that is packed with melatonin. “They’re also high in protein and iron, which positively impact your health,” says Dr. Wasserman. Beyond aiding in sleep, the melatonin found in eggs can also have other positive effects on the body.
“Research shows that high melatonin levels can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related eye problem,” Dr. Wasserman adds. It also can help prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. “With these two neurodegenerative diseases out of the picture, you are more likely to enjoy good brain health.”
Grab a handful of goji berries if you notice you are having trouble dozing off. According to research, goji berries have the highest concentration of melatonin of any common dried fruit. Even better, goji berries taste delicious in both sweet or savory recipes—the possibilities are endless!