Snooze-Worthy Snacks: 5 Melatonin Rich Foods

We all know that the food and beverages we consume can impact our sleep. Coffee at bedtime? No thank you. 

You might be surprised to learn that many foods contain melatonin. The hormone melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle and helps you fall asleep.

Here, you’ll find 5 foods that scientists say contain higher levels of melatonin. Plus, we’ll share some foods to avoid before bedtime for a better night’s sleep.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced mainly by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps regulate sleep-wake cycles (also known as circadian rhythms). Levels of melatonin in the blood rise in the evening, making us feel drowsy and helping us nod off.

Low melatonin levels may contribute to certain sleep problems.

The amount of melatonin your brain makes slowly declines with age. That’s one reason why older adults tend to have more sleep problems than younger adults.

Increasing the amount of melatonin in your bloodstream before bed may help you sleep better. Eating foods rich in melatonin may give these levels a natural boost.

Melatonin-rich Foods

Scientists have measured the levels of melatonin in a huge range of foods, with some foods having a higher concentration of melatonin than others. We’ve picked out five melatonin-rich foods and looked to see if there’s any clinical research into their impact on sleep.

Tart Cherries

Tart (or sour) cherries are one of the best food sources of melatonin. Tart cherries have a higher concentration of melatonin than sweet cherries.

In one small study of adults over 50, drinking tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks lengthened sleep duration by over 80 minutes.

Milk

A comforting glass of warm milk is a well-known traditional sleep aid. One of the reasons it works is because milk is rich in melatonin. It also contains another sleep-boosting compound called tryptophan.

Several research studies have shown that a higher consumption of milk is linked to higher sleep scores (a measure of healthy sleep).

Fish

Fish, such as salmon and tuna are decent dietary sources of melatonin. Fish also contain vitamin D and omega-3s that may assist your body to make a chemical called serotonin, that also plays a role in sleep quality.

One large study in people over the age of 40 linked a diet high in fish to better sleep quality.

Try eating baked or grilled fish earlier in the evening for your dinner, ideally 2-3 hours before bed.

Grapes

You can also find melatonin in some grape varieties, especially red and purple grapes. Grape skin contains more melatonin than the flesh, so don’t get all fancy and peel them before you eat!   

Although grapes have higher levels of melatonin than some other foods, there’s no quality clinical research that shows that eating them can help with sleep.

Nuts: Pistachio and Walnuts

Pistachios have been shown to have the highest melatonin levels of all the nuts.

Walnuts are also one of the better nut sources of melatonin. They are usually about half the price of pistachios, so these could be the better choice if you’re on a budget.

While pistachios and walnuts have higher levels of melatonin, their sleep-promoting effects are yet to be studied in humans.

Be Mindful of Snacking Close to Bedtime

Keep in mind that eating too close to bedtime, especially heavy meals, can mess with your sleep quality. There are also some sleep-disturbing foods you should avoid eating too close to bedtime, including:

  • Foods and beverages that contain caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee, and tea.
  • Fatty foods, such as fried foods and fatty meats.
  • Spicy foods.
  • Foods that have a high concentration of acid such as tomato and citrus.  
  • Alcohol.

Adding a serving or two of melatonin-rich foods into your daily diet might help your sleep. Combining sleep-friendly snacks with other healthy sleep habits may bring even greater improvements in sleep duration and quality. Sweet dreams!

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