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Stress-Busting Foods For Soothing Sleep

Sleep Number

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Here are 3 easy recipes and the science behind them — because certain foods can help relieve stress and promote better sleep.

Stress is a part of everyone's life. How we deal with it (i.e. exercise, meditation and other wellness-boosting activities available on the Sleep Number blog), and what we eat or snack on can either fuel our bodies, help with anxiety and sleep, or wind us up into high gear.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your diet and nighttime z's.

Eating For Stress: Opt For Stress-Reducing Foods

What we eat can help relieve stress, which in turn can help us sleep better at night. Toronto, Canada-based Registered Dietitian Abby Langer attributes this to a few key nutrients, the first of which is magnesium.

"It's found in dairy, nuts, seeds and whole grains," says Langer, "which is great for relaxing our muscles and promoting sleep."

Melatonin, found naturally in tart cherries, almonds and walnuts, can also help promote sleep, says Langer. And then there's serotonin, a hormone our body produces to stabilize our mood, make us feel happy, digest our food and, yep, even regulate sleep.

Langer says "serotonin production may be enhanced by both vitamin C and omega-3s. Serotonin helps to relax us."

Treat yourself to a warm bowl of oatmeal to boost serotonin levels, or crack some eggs.

Sleep Better With Egg-cellent Options

According to a 2015 study, the protein in eggs can boost blood plasma levels of tryptophan, an amino acid essential to serotonin production. With omega-3 fatty acids and biotin included, it's also one of Langer's pantry staples.

The good news: Eggs have been vindicated of their cholesterol-raising reputation, according to Langer.

"Most people can safely eat one to two eggs a day with no side effects, so stop throwing the yolks out!" she states in one of her blog posts.

There are many ways to enjoy eggs, but make sure to try these favorites:

  • Stress-busting Egg Salad: Elevate your next egg salad with diced avocado, red onion and minced gherkin pickles. Use probiotic-friendly plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo (added bonus - yogurt helps lower cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone), add a dollop of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and enjoy over a bed of lightly dressed greens or a toasted slice of whole grain bread.

  • Flavorful Tortilla: For something with even more sabor (flavor), warm up a corn or whole grain tortilla, spoon on a layer of tomato salsa (pre-made or homemade with diced tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt and finely diced jalapeño), a fried egg, and a crumble of cotija or feta cheese.

Relax With Deliciously Dark Chocolate

Turn to dark chocolate for a hit of sweetness and the added bonus of cortisol-busting antioxidants.

Langer always keeps a bag of semi-sweet mini chips in her pantry to drop into pancakes, trail mix and home-baked cookies. Or she'll melt them over low heat to make a chocolate fondue for her kids, with freshly cut fruit for dipping.

This super easy granola is also an amazing post-workout snack or parfait topper. With its trifecta of mood-boosting dark chocolate, melatonin-rich almonds and fiber-filled oats, you've got a snack that tastes as good as it is good for you.

  • Homemade Chocolate Granola: In a large bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil and orange juice, a pinch of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Add 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats with 1/3 cup of slivered almonds, and 1/3 cup of shredded coconut. Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes (stir mixture halfway through cooking) or until browned. Let cool, add 1/2 cup dark chocolate (pieces or chips) and enjoy any way you like. This recipe is flexible — if you prefer walnut or pecan pieces for example, swap them out. Add a handful of dried fruits to make this a little sweeter.

Make yourself a cup of warm herbal tea and grab a handful of this almost-virtuous treat to end the day on a soothing note.

More Food For Thought

While food plays a role in stress-reduction, Langer says "the best way to stress less and sleep better is to attack the sources of stress in your life and reduce them as much as possible."

For her, managing what life throws her way includes "saying 'no' to things I don't need to do. I also exercise strenuously four times a week  swimming is great for my sleep. It makes me so tired!"

Browse the blog for more wellness and sleep-boosting tips, and figure out your best sleep habits with Sleep Number's free Sleep30® Challenge.

Want even better sleep? Sleepers who routinely use their Sleep Number® smart bed features and SleepIQ® technology get almost 100 hours more proven quality sleep per year.* No amount of the right food can offset the grogginess you feel from a poor quality night of sleep.


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal wellbeing and performance. Because everyone's sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® smart beds sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep.


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