Melatonin Rich Foods That Help You Sleep

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a molecule (or a master hormone) found in humans that is principally secreted by the pineal gland during the night-time. Melatonin holds numerous functions, and its primary function includes conveying information regarding the cycle of lightness and darkness to the body daily, thus regulating circadian rhythms and helping us to fall and stay asleep. The other health-related functions of melatonin include its antioxidant effects, interfering with the inflammatory pathway and proinflammatory signaling pathway. 

Circadian rhythms, the biological oscillations based around our 24-hour clock, have a profound effect on human physiology and healthy cellular function. New circadian medicine research has found strong links between melatonin and the health of the microbiome, mood, sleep, heart, immunity, bone,  joint, prostate, breast,  and blood sugar health.

 Some scientists refer to melatonin as a molecule rather than a hormone, as the body’s natural production is not impacted with supplementation. Modern science is viewing melatonin as the link that gets the body’s biological clocks to sync with light and dark cycles. These biological clocks exist in every cell of the body and are found in every living cell on the planet.

Melatonin is involved in various physiological, biological, and hormonal processes that take place at the cellular, tissue, and organic levels. It is very well-known for the principle ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.5. Melatonin is considered to serve a lot of functions and is essential for a human body to maintain its optimum levels for the proper functioning of our whole system. 

See: Time Release Melatonin vs. Immediate Release Melatonin

Melatonin rich foods for sleep

Melatonin rich foods and drinks for sleep:

There are several tips and tricks which you can implement to help you get to sleep each night. Many come in the kind of practicing good sleep hygiene, which are fundamental habits that you can apply to their nightly routines that encourage getting good sleep at night. Among the most underrated sleep hygiene practices that actually go far in enhancing quality sleep is making the ideal dietary choices.

Almost everybody knows the value that eating certain foods is instrumental in our everyday lives. Eating the proper foods gives us the energy we must accomplish tasks, strengthen our immune system against diseases, enhance cognitive functions, heal wounds, repair bones and cells, and everything needed to stay healthy. But too often healthy eating is seldom considered in regards to sleep. There are many benefits that food may have in assisting you to get to sleep and remain asleep, so you wake feeling refreshed the following day, every day.

Melatonin is a molecule found in various medicinal and food plants, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Some of the melatonin rich foods that can help you sleep better at night are listed below: 

Warm milk consumed at night: Milk is known to constitute higher amounts of melatonin. Consuming warm milk during the night may increase the release of melatonin during night time and maintain the daily rhythm of the sleep cycle, also known as Circadian rhythm. It has been proven through various research that night time milking might increase the benefits from milk by increasing the concentration of melatonin secretion to ten folds when compared to that in the day time. 

It has also been proven from various research studies that milk is the main component of an infant's diet, and night-time lactation in infants confirms the nutritional adequacy of melatonin. Melatonin content of night-time milk may have further physiological relevance in children.1.

- Animal foods - Animal foods like eggs and fish were considered to have higher concentrations of melatonin than those found from meat.1.

- Edible Oils: Extra virgin oil like linseed oil and soybean oil were found to contain a higher concentration of melatonin when compared to the melatonin levels present in the refined olive and sunflower oil.1. 

- Nuts: Nuts like Pistachio, constituted the highest concentration of Melatonin.1.

- Legumes and Seeds: Raw and Germinated legumes and seeds like soybean seeds consist of high levels of melatonin and can be consumed at night for better melatonin secretion.1.

- Vegetables: High concentrations of melatonin are found in many common vegetables with the highest concentrations found in tomatoes and peppers.3.

- Fruits: Generally, melatonin was found in a lot of daily consumed fruits. Among which grapes, cherries, and strawberries were the most popular fruits containing a higher concentration of melatonin.3

- Cereal: Cereals make the daily part of our food. It is consumed all over the world on a large scale. 

- Pigmented rice and a variety of corn also contained a very high melatonin content also.2,3.

- Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese is another dairy product made from milk and is known to contain high amounts of melatonin. If cottage cheese is consumed with raspberries, it can make a good combination to increase your melatonin levels.2,3.

Drinks that are great for sleep

It is not only foods that are amazing for sleep. Many drinks contain essential minerals and vitamins that help aid with sleep. Some of those to try are:

- Bedtime Tea: caffeine-containing products like coffee or tea may stimulate the brain during night time. A cup of tea made containing chamomile, ginger, and peppermint at night time can be considered as a natural relaxing drink to be consumed.2,3.

- Warm milk

- Almond milk

- Valerian tea

- Chamomile tea

- Tart cherry juice

- Passion fruit tea

- Peppermint tea


See: Ashwagandha for sleep before bed

Minerals & vitamins needed for melatonin creation

There are four major minerals and vitamins which may be found in foods that assist in promoting sleep: tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, and B6. Some of the substances help the body create melatonin, the hormone that's responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake patterns). When you are near bedtime, melatonin production obviously increases that will help you sleep. In the morning hours, melatonin production tapers off to enable you to be alert and awake for the day.

Some foods are naturally packed with these crucial minerals and vitamins, and eating certain foods at certain times can help you tip the scales towards a successful night of quality sleep. The majority of them are available as over-the-counter nutritional supplements, but like with most supplements, it is far better to get them from the foods you eat.

Magnesium: Magnesium is a strong mineral that's instrumental in sleep and is a natural relaxant that helps deactivate adrenaline. A deficiency of magnesium can be directly connected to difficulty going and staying asleep. Magnesium is often known as the sleep mineral. Exceptional sources of magnesium are:

- Dark leafy greens (collard greens, baby spinach, kale, )

- Nuts and seeds (cashews, pine nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, flaxseed, pecans)

- Wheat germ

- Fish (halibut, tuna, salmon, mackerel)

- Banana

- Soybeans

- Low-fat yogurt

- Avocados

Calcium: Calcium is a mineral that helps the brain make melatonin. Calcium deficiency can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night and have trouble returning to sleep. Calcium-rich diets have been proven to help patients with insomnia. Dairy products, which include both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the best sleep inducers. Sources of calcium include:

- Dark leafy greens

- Low-fat milk

- Cheese

- Yogurt

- Sardines

- Fortified cereals

- Soybeans

- Fortified orange juice

- Green snap peas

- Okra

- Broccoli

- Enriched bread and grains

- Tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid that, when consumed, gets turned into the neurotransmitter serotonin and then converted to the hormone melatonin. Here are some of the best foods packed with tryptophan:

- Dairy products (milk, low-fat yogurt, cheese)

- Fruits (apples, bananas, peaches, avocado)

- Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, asparagus, onions, seaweed)

- Grains (wheat, rice, barley, corn, oats)

- Legumes (kidney beans, lima beans, black beans split peas, chickpeas)

- Nuts and seeds (flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts)

- Poultry (turkey, chicken)

- Seafood (tuna, sardines, cod, shrimp, salmon, halibut, )

Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 helps to convert tryptophan into melatonin. A deficiency in B6 was linked with reduced serotonin levels and inadequate sleep. A lack of B6 can also be linked to symptoms of depression and mood disorders, which may result in insomnia. Maximum sources of B6 are:

- Sunflower seeds

- Pistachio nuts

- Avocado

- Spinach

- Fish (tuna, salmon, halibut)

- Meat (chicken, tuna, lean pork, lean beef)

- Dried Prunes

- Bananas

- Flaxseed

Melatonin: Lots of the minerals and vitamins which are on this list are there because they help assist in the creation of turning serotonin into melatonin. But, there are a few excellent sources of naturally occurring melatonin in foods.

- Vegetables and fruits (tart cherries, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, pomegranate, olives, grapes, broccoli, cucumber)

- Grains (wheat, barley, rolled oats)

- Nuts and Seeds (walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, flaxseed)

See: Why Magnesium is important for your diet

Foods to avoid for good sleep

Avoid these foods for sleep:

Just because there are foods and beverages that help promote sleep, there are also foods to prevent that can rob you of sleep. Lots of the foods to avoid on this listing are healthy for you to eat, but simply not suggested to eat before bed as they can interfere with sleep. Some of them are:

- Foods and beverages that contain caffeine. Drinks containing caffeine like coffee and green tea, or even energy drinks can help you when you are feeling tired and just need a little pick-me-up to get the day going. However, it is not suggested to drink caffeine after lunch, and particularly near bedtime. Foods with dark chocolate can also be high in caffeine and should be avoided late in the day.

- Spicy foods. While hot foods tend to be delicious and even have many noted health benefits, eating spicy foods too near bedtime can be a terrible idea. Spicy foods can cause heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion. Heartburn can be made worse when you lie down since it enables the acids to flow back into the esophagus and burn the sensitive lining.

- Alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn't help promote sleep. Even though it can make you drowsy and more likely to fall asleep quicker, it often disrupts sleep and may deter you from going into the deeper, much-needed stages of the sleep cycles.

- Heavy foods before bedtime. Portion control or eating in moderation is common sense that is typically forgotten. Heavy meals before bed can make you lose sleep because your body is centered on digestion. If you end up hungry before bed, a light snack is advised. Light snacks that contain tryptophan and calcium can include cheese and crackers, a bowl of cereal, or peanut butter on toast.

- Foods high in fat have been linked to poor, fragmented sleep. Fat activates the digestive processes and causes a build-up of stomach acids, which, while lying down, may creep into the esophagus resulting in distress. A high-fat diet also messes with the creation of orexin, one of the neurotransmitters which will help regulate your sleep/wake cycle together with melatonin.

- Foods high in protein may also disrupt sleep when consumed too near bedtime. Protein is tougher for the digestive tract to break down. Eating protein-rich foods near bedtime induces the body to spend more time working on digestion as opposed to focusing on sleeping.

- Foods containing water like watermelon and celery are natural diuretics that help push water through your system. Eating these kinds of foods and drinking anything too near bedtime can cause you to lose sleep from bathroom trips.

If you are following these eating hints and other sleep hygiene practices, but still find yourself having difficulty sleeping at night, there is a chance you might be suffering from a sleep disorder. If you are regularly having sleep problems, you may want to talk to your primary care doctor for the root of the issue.

See: Ayurvedic Diet

Summary

Foods high in melatonin content can have profound benefits on our health. It regulates various physiological functions of our body and is essential for everyone to maintain an optimum level of melatonin content by consuming foods that are rich in melatonin. A good night's sleep can help you function actively throughout the day while keeping you fit and healthy. 

See: Functional Medicine For Brain Fog Treatment

References

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3. Salehi, Bahare & Sharopov, Farukh & Tsouh Fokou, Patrick Valere & Kobylińska, Agnieszka & De Jonge, Lilian & Tadio, Kathryn & Sharifi-Rad, Javad & Posmyk, Małgorzata & Martorell, Miquel & Martins, Natália & Iriti, Marcello. (2019). Melatonin in Medicinal & Food Plants: Occurrence, Bioavailability, & Health Potential for Humans. Cells. 8. 681. 10.3390/cells8070681. 

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5. Sae-Teaw, Manit & Johns, Jeffrey & Johns, Nutjaree Pratheepawanit & Subongkot, Suphat. (2013). Serum melatonin levels & antioxidant capacities after consumption of pineapple, orange, or banana by healthy male volunteers. Journal of Pineal Research. 55. 58-64. 10.1111/jpi.12025. 

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See: Sleeping on the left side health benefits

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