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6 Surprising Foods that Make You Sleepy

Sleep Number

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No, Turkey Is Not (Fully) To Blame

Yes, the big bird can make you tired, but a lot of it has to do with everything else on the Thanksgiving table.


Turkey, along with a lot of foods, supplies an essential amino acid. It's something your body needs but can't produce itself, so you have to get it through your dietary habits.


Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in turkey and chicken. First the body changes it into serotonin, which is a relaxing neurotransmitter, and then it changes that into melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our sleep cycles.


Other complex Thanksgiving food speeds up [tryptophan's] metabolism into serotonin and melatonin.


There are a lot of dietary items that we should eat on a regular basis that provide that tryptophan. It just so happens turkey is the most famous.

Eat These Foods For Better Zzzs

A sizable list of foods have tryptophan. The list includes:

  • Dried egg whites

  • Sesame seeds

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Atlantic cod

  • Cheeses

  • Soybeans

  • Edamame

But the big winner is tart cherries, as studies have shown they increase melatonin levels enough to give you longer sleep time and less tossing and turning. There's also a flavonoid (one of the flavor enhancements) in cherries that actually increases tryptophan availability. The fruit also helps reduce inflammation, so it can act as a relaxant as well.


Other Essential Vitamins And Minerals

As tryptophan breaks down into serotonin, it needs a lot of vitamin B6, which can be found in pistachios and bananas.


That's why pistachios are such a great food at night. In addition to B6, your body needs a lot of magnesium, and magnesium is an essential mineral, meaning your body can't produce it — it has to come from your diet.


Magnesium does a great job of increasing total sleep time. It's a relaxant, and it also increases melatonin levels so you fall asleep faster. It also decreases your cortisol at night. You want to have low cortisol at night to get great sleep.


Another food you can try for a nighttime snack: almonds, rich in both tryptophan and magnesium.


Bottom Line

While all these foods don't directly make you tired, they affect all of the processes in your body that help regulate sleep. Keep them balanced, and your sleep will also feel more balanced.


If you have a balanced diet, your body already produces enough of what it needs. So pass the turkey and the cherry pie — and when your cousin jokes about you nodding off, this year you can blame it on the melatonin and the minerals. Not the turkey.


Food for Thought

Around 35% of Sleep Number SleepIQ® sleepers report eating within an hour of going to bed. In comparison, those who rarely eat within an hour of going to bed are the most restful overall and get the highest (best) SleepIQ® scores.* So, keep that in mind the next time you’re thinking of eating within an hour of going to bed.


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep has a profound impact on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Because no two people sleep the same, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably and provide proven quality sleep. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep, and if you own a Sleep Number® bed, log in to your InnerCircle℠ Rewards account to see your exclusive offers, refer friends and more.


*Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/2/20 to 1/1/21 and self-reported responses of sleepers using SleepIQ® technology from 5/12/19 – 1/1/21

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