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Load up on these inflammation-fighting foods for a better night's rest.

Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., R.D.
May 13, 2020
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Online searches for insomnia remedies and tips for better sleep have skyrocketed over the past month, which suggests a lot of us are having trouble sleeping lately. And while one night of less-than-adequate sleep may leave you less productive and energized the next day, it isn't too big of a deal. However, several nights creates a much bigger health issue. This is because a lack of sleep fuels inflammation in the body, increasing risk for developing heart disease and diabetes and decreasing the immune system's effectiveness.

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Want to get a better night's rest? Research suggests eating certain foods can help you sleep better and reduce inflammation in the body. Check out these 8 top anti-inflammatory foods for sleep.

Pistachios

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Recipe pictured above: Savory Date & Pistachio Bites

Thanks to their combination of protein, healthy fat, fiber, minerals and antioxidants, tree nuts are considered a great anti-inflammatory food to eat regularly. But pistachios might be the best choice if you're struggling with sleep.

This is because pistachios are one of the top sources of melatonin, the hormone in the body that helps to induce sleep. Research suggests increasing melatonin levels through food may make it easier to go to sleep and to sleep longer. (Buy them: Wonderful Roasted & Salted No-Shells Pistachios, $12, Target)

Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential anti-inflammatory nutrient that may support quality sleep. Research in children suggests that higher intake of the omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA significantly improves sleep quality and reduces sleep disruptions, and adults would likely see similar effects.

DHA is primarily found in cold-water fish like salmon, so look for ways to get at least two servings of salmon or other higher-fat fish in a week.

Edamame

Edamame Veggie Rice Bowl

Recipe pictured above: Edamame & Veggie Rice Bowl

Edamame is a food that eases inflammation and may improve sleep. Several studies suggest that regularly eating soybeans results in significantly longer and better quality sleep, and these effects are attributed to anti-inflammatory compounds in soy known as isoflavones. Shelled and toasted edamame are readily available, but you can also get these benefits by eating other soy-based foods like tofu. (Buy it: Good & Gather Freeze-Dried Salted Edamame, $4, Target)

Decaffeinated Green Tea

Green tea leaves contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds known as catechins, along with the amino acid theanine. This particular amino acid reduces stress and promotes sleep by having a calming effect on neurons and reducing stress-related chemicals in the brain.

Sipping on a cup of tea each night with these effects may help some go to sleep a little easier—just make sure you get a decaffeinated variety to drink before bed. (Buy it: Market Pantry Decaf Green Tea, $2, Target)

Oatmeal

Creamy Blueberry-Pecan Overnight Oatmeal

Eating carbohydrate-rich foods triggers the production of serotonin, a chemical that causes drowsiness and may make it easier to fall asleep. But make sure to get that serotonin-boost from a higher-fiber, complex-carb foods like oats to keep blood sugar in check to prevent hunger pangs from waking you a few hours later.

Plus, oats are a source of melatonin and may promote production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the brain. (Buy it: Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats, $4, Target)

Kiwifruit

If you're looking for a bedtime snack, kiwifruit might be a good choice! According to a 2011 study, subjects who ate two kiwifruit before bed reported significant improvements in quality of sleep, how long they slept and their ability to fall asleep.

How this works isn't fully understood, but kiwis are a source of serotonin which the body breaks down to melatonin. And researchers suggest the anti-inflammatory effects from kiwi's antioxidants play a role in improving sleep, too.

Almonds

Toasted Almonds with Rosemary and Cayenne

Magnesium promotes the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter than decreases brain and nervous system activity, which helps the body and mind to relax. Not to mention, many people don't meet their daily magnesium needs.

Some insomnia sufferers have had significant sleep improvements by getting in more magnesium-rich foods, and almonds are the best source (a 1-oz serving provides approximately 25% of daily needs), along with being a top anti-inflammatory food. (Buy it: Blue Diamond Lightly Salted Almonds, $7, Target)

Tart Cherry Juice

Similar to berries, cherries are packed with polyphenol compounds like anthocyanins, all of which work to reduce inflammation by stopping potential damage by free radicals. And research suggests that consuming one cup of tart cherry juice each day significantly improves sleep duration and quality.

The mechanism behind this isn't fully understood, but cherries do appear to increase melatonin levels. There's also thought that the powerful antioxidants in cherries may stop inflammatory cytokines that disrupt sleep. (Buy it: R.W. Knudsen Tart Cherry Juice, $6, Target)

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is author to the new cookbook, Meals That Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less, and a culinary nutrition expert known for ability to simplify food and nutrition information. She received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award. You can follow her on Instagram @realfoodreallife_rd or on carolynwilliamsrd.com.