It is estimated that as many as 25 percent of Americans use some form of sleep aid, usually medication. What they may not know, however, is that a few tweaks in their diet may be all they need to catch the zzz's they need. Several common vitamins and minerals found in certain foods have been shown to improve both the quality and duration of sleep.
Milk, Cheese and Yogurt
Yes, the old adage is true, drinking a glass of warm milk before bed could help you fall asleep. Milk is an excellent source of magnesium, which, according to a study by the Human Nutrition Research Center, has been found to be associated with deeper, less-interrupted sleep. Milk and other dairy foods, such as cheese and yogurt, are also high in calcium, which helps the brain make melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
Whole Grains, Nuts and Seeds
People who are deficient in magnesium often experience long-term sleep deprivation. You can combat a lack of magnesium in your diet with whole-grain foods such as quinoa, barley, bulgur, whole-grain breads and pastas, whole oats and brown rice. Nuts such as pecans, walnuts and almonds, and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax, also contain magnesium. In addition, those same nuts contain tryptophan, which can improve depression and promote relaxation.
Lentils and Green Leafy Vegetables
Because a deficiency in folic acid has been associated with insomnia, eating foods high in folate, such as lentils, may improve sleep. Lentils are best enjoyed in soups or cold salads. Cauliflower, beets, parsley and asparagus are also good sources of folate. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and collard greens, are also high in folate, as well as calcium and magnesium, two other power nutrients for sleep. A diet high in folate can also help combat chronic fatigue syndrome.
Broccoli and Eggs
Along with dairy products and leafy greens, broccoli is a great source of calcium. According to the website Nutrition411, a study published in the "European Neurology Journal" concluded that calcium deficiency can cause sleep disturbances. In the study, once calcium levels were normal, sleep disturbances decreased. Vitamin A deficiencies can also cause sleep problems, especially in older adults and those suffering from Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and depression. Eggs are high in vitamin A, but make sure you eat the whole egg, as the yolk contains 100 percent of the vitamin A found in an egg.