Sleep Improvement with Diet

Many experts contend that avoiding heavy meals before bedtime and restricting or limiting alcohol are important to improving sleep. However, research has proven that the vitamins and minerals that you consume also can affect your sleep.

Make sure that you get enough magnesium. People with long-term lack of sleep or abnormal brain waves during deep sleep are often deficient in magnesium. Several small human studies have proven that magnesium treatment improves sleep. Magnesium deficiency also increased the time lab rats were awake, and magnesium treatment restored their sleep patterns.

High-calcium intake can worsen magnesium deficiency. It is recommended that people check that their calcium supplements also contain magnesium. Milk is a good source of magnesium, possibly explaining why drinking a glass of warm milk prior to bedtime can sometimes help you fall asleep.

Other sources of magnesium include:

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Green leafy vegetables

Vitamin A
In mice, a gene known as the retinoic acid receptor beta is necessary for the delta brain waves that lead to deep sleep. The gene is linked to a receptor in the brain that targets vitamin A. Mice with fewer delta waves have fragmented sleep.

People who suffer from sleep problems because of normal aging or disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and depression should make sure that they are getting enough vitamin A.

Vitamin A is found in:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Other animal products

Beta-carotene from plant sources is converted into vitamin A, based on the body’s need for vitamin A.

According to one study published by the European Neurology Journal, calcium levels within the body are higher during deep sleep, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. Researchers concluded that disturbed sleep may result from calcium deficiency. Once blood calcium levels were normalized, sleep was restored.

Calcium is found in:

  • Dairy products
  • Canned fish with bones
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Cooked dried beans
  • Peas

Folic acid
Insomnia sometimes is caused by a folic acid deficiency. In fact, some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome also are deficient in folic acid.

Excellent sources of folate include:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Calf’s liver
  • Parsley
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Beets
  • Lentils

References and recommended readings
George Mateljan Foundation. Folate. Available at: Accessed January 3, 2010.

Medical News Today. Insomnia: studies confirm calcium and magnesium effective. Available at: Accessed January 3, 2010.

MedlinePlus. Folate (folic acid). Available at: Accessed January 3, 2010.

Nielsen F. Do you have trouble sleeping? More magnesium might help. Available at: Accessed January 3, 2010.