You may find countless tips and tricks when looking for ways to improve your sleep, especially if you tend to have episodes of insomnia.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. It usually leads to daytime sleepiness, lethargy, and general unwellness.
The approach of eating a banana before bed has been around for a long time, and research seems to suggest that some science may back the idea.
This article explores how bananas may help you sleep.
Bananas and sleep quality
Bananas contain a few nutrients that may help enhance sleep and relaxation.
One medium-sized banana (126 grams) contains about 34 mg of magnesium or 8% of the daily value.
Magnesium may enhance your sleep via several different pathways.
First, magnesium helps maintain a normal circadian cycle, which refers to your internal body clock responsible for maintaining adequate sleep and wakefulness.
Additionally, studies show that supplementing with 500 mg of magnesium daily may increase melatonin production and reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone.
Melatonin is a hormone produced during the sleep cycle that may help you adhere to healthier sleep patterns. It helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and may increase sleep time.
Moreover, low magnesium intakes are associated with very short sleep, characterized by sleeping periods shorter than 5 hours.
Thus, by eating a banana at night, you may take advantage of magnesium’s sleep-enhancing effects. Other good dietary sources of magnesium include avocadoes, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid; you must get it from foods like bananas because your body doesn’t produce it.
Evidence has linked tryptophan-containing foods with improved sleep, including increased sleep time and efficiency, less difficulty falling asleep, and less waking at night.
Tryptophan improves sleep quality because it’s converted into serotonin once it enters the brain. Serotonin is a hormone known to regulate sleep by acting as a precursor to melatonin.
In other words, tryptophan enhances sleep quality by promoting serotonin production, which leads to higher melatonin levels.
Other nutrients involved in sleep quality
Bananas contain a few other nutrients that may help enhance sleep. They include:
- Carbs. Evidence shows that high-carb foods may increase the chances of tryptophan entering the brain to be converted into serotonin and melatonin. They may also reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
- Potassium. Low potassium levels may disturb sleep in people with high blood pressure. It may also improve sleep quality by reducing muscle cramping at night.
While research seems to support the beneficial effects of the nutrients in bananas for better sleep, no studies have analyzed bananas’ direct effects on sleep.
Summary: Bananas are rich in sleep-promoting nutrients like magnesium, tryptophan, vitamin B6, carbs, and potassium, all linked to improved sleep.
Other benefits of eating bananas before bed
Besides providing sleep-promoting nutrients, bananas may help improve your sleep by easing digestion and promoting feelings of fullness.
Bananas before bed may aid digestion
Bananas are rich in resistant starch, a type of starch that your body can’t digest. Instead, the bacteria in your gut can ferment it, which acts as a prebiotic or food for them.
Fermentation of resistant starch produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), such as butyrate.
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Butyrate has been shown to promote healthy digestion by reducing inflammation and promoting intestinal function.
Evidence suggests that people with chronic intestinal inflammation report poor sleep and lower efficiency.
Bananas may promote feelings of fullness
Bananas are also rich in pectin, a soluble fiber commonly found in fruits and vegetables.
Research shows that pectin may increase fullness feelings by delaying gastric emptying — the time it takes your stomach to empty its contents.
Therefore, eating a banana at night might reduce poor sleep related to feelings of hunger.
Summary: Bananas may help improve your digestion and provide feelings of fullness, which may help you sleep better.
Other science-backed sleep tips to consider
Improving sleep hygiene is one of the first steps in treating sleep disorders. Here are some strategies you may want to follow if you’re having trouble sleeping:
- Stick to a bedtime routine. Adhering to a consistent sleep and wake schedule effectively improves sleep quality and reduces sleep disturbances.
- Optimize your sleep environment. Optimizing your sleep environment by reducing noise, setting a comfortable temperature, and darkening your room at night may also improve sleep quality.
- Wind down before bed. Implementing relaxation techniques such as slow breathing, meditation, and yoga before bedtime is an effective and low-cost strategy to improve sleep and treat insomnia.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine intake before bed. Both alcohol and caffeine are stimulants that may impair sleep. They also lead to lower melatonin levels.
- Exercise early in the day. Exercise is known to promote sleep and often helps treat insomnia. However, nighttime exercise may lead to sleep disturbances in sensitive people due to its stimulatory effect.
Summary: Besides eating bananas before bed, optimizing your sleep hygiene may help you sleep better. That includes winding down techniques, optimizing your sleep environment, and sticking to a bedtime routine.
Eating bananas before bed may help you get a good night’s sleep.
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Bananas are rich in magnesium, potassium, tryptophan, vitamin B6, carbs, and fiber, which may improve sleep quality via different mechanisms.
However, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you should also try some other science-backed sleep tips, such as sticking to a bedtime routine, optimizing your sleep environment, and implementing a relaxation technique like meditation.