By Malu Trehan, RDN, MPH
With the recent swarm of earthquakes, my son developed anxiety around going to bed. Most of the tremors had happened in the middle of the night, jolting him out of a deep slumber. For the remainder of the week however, he lay awake as late as 2am. After a few nights of this, I knew he was in need of rest so I turned to foods that could help him relax at night. Here’s what I discovered… a few of these might surprise you!
Tart Cherry Juice
This juice has a high content of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your internal clock and signals your body to prepare for sleep. Researchers found that adults who consumed 1 oz tart cherry juice per day had marked improvements in sleep, both the quality and the duration. Participants slept an average of 39 minutes longer than those who had not consumed the juice. (1) Look for a juice that doesn’t have any additional ingredients in it. RW Knudsen Organic Just Tart Cherry is a good one and readily available at Whole Foods and Safeway. Remember, juice still has a lot of sugar so stick to 1oz.
Known for their high antioxidant and serotonin content, kiwis may also be beneficial for sleep. This study looked at kiwis’ effect on sleep quality.(2) Participants consumed 2 kiwis one hour before bed for four weeks. The results? They fell asleep quicker, had less nighttime wakings, and slept longer. Sungold kiwis (available at Costco) are slightly sweeter, mellower, and have a smoother skin than the Hayward.
This beautiful flower, a cousin of the daisy, has long been known as a sleep aid. The sedative effects may be due to the plant flavonoid “apigenin” that binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. (3) Incidentally, chamomile has also shown to alleviate depression.(4) Participants drank chamomile tea for two weeks and had improved sleep quality over non-tea drinkers. They also had fewer symptoms of depression which is often seen in sleep-deprived individuals. We started with a cup of chamomile tea before bed. I really like Traditional Medicinals Chamomile with Lavender Tea.
Lavender has a powerful effect on the nervous system. Among its many benefits, lavender can lower anxiety levels, reduce depression and aid in sleep.(5) If you apply it topically, use a 1% dilution for children- 6 drops lavender essential oil* to 1 oz carrier oil (i.e. fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond or jajoba). For adults, use a 2% dilution - 12 drops EO’s to 1 oz carrier oil. You can also diffuse it or bathe in it. For a relaxing bath, add 4-5 drops lavender essential oil to one cup of epsom salt and then fill the tub. The magnesium from the epsom salt will give added relaxation.
We tried a shot glass of tart cherry juice, chamomile tea, and a nightly essential oil massage. The results? It worked! My son has fallen asleep fairly quickly each night and stayed asleep… he even snoozed through one tiny quake.
*All essential oils are not created equal so look for a high quality, therapeutic grade oils. Seasoned aromatherapist and author Mindy Green has a resource list of reputable companies.