When we think of food and sleep it can have a negative connotation. Eating too late makes sleeping uncomfortable, and some foods leave you too full of energy to properly drop off. Food and sleep can have a positive connection, however, with some foods actively improving how well you sleep.
Have you ever considered a handful of pistachios as a cure for insomnia? Or at least as an aid? Small and unassuming, the pistachio would rarely be the first thought of someone hoping to fall asleep quickly. But could a pistachio help you sleep better?
Do pistachios help you sleep?
Yes, recent studies have shown that a small helping of pistachios before bed might actually improve your nights sleep. It’s all to do with the blend of proteins, vitamins, and a little something called melatonin. Pistachios contain several components that are sleep aids.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that’s created by the pineal gland in the brain. It works with your bodies natural clock, and the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to, to form a sleep pattern. Melatonin levels change throughout the day, but they typically rise in the evening and stay elevated overnight, before lowering in the morning. As the sun sets, melatonin levels rise. As the sun rises, melatonin levels drop. So, melatonin tells your brain when it’s time to go to sleep, and then when it’s time to wake up.
When melatonin levels are running low, then the brain is less aware of when is the right time to sleep. Unfortunately, a lot can affect melatonin levels. Too much light at night, not enough light during the day, stress, and aging, all can contribute to low levels of melatonin. Too low melatonin levels mess with your bodies natural cycles, as your body and brain won’t know when to sleep. If you regularly find yourself tossing and turning, melatonin may be what’s to blame.
Pistachios, however, can help with that.
Do pistachios contain melatonin?
Yes, pistachios contain a high level of melatonin. Recent studies have shown that pistachios contain a higher level of melatonin than other legumes and fruits. There are about 660 nanograms of melatonin per gram of pistachio. Eating pistachios before bed will contribute to a natural rise in your melatonin levels.
That’s not all that pistachios contain. There’s also vitamin B6.
What is vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6, otherwise known as pyridoxine, is a vitamin that helps your body to store and use the energy found in the proteins and carbohydrates of food. It occurs naturally in food, and is vital to the optimal functioning of the body. Storing and using energy is part of what makes us sleep well. People with a low level of vitamin B6 have been shown to be fatigued, and sleep worse.
Vitamin B6 is present in pistachios, and eating pistachios is a healthy way to up your intake. Another good source of vitamin B6 is fish (something else that can help you sleep).
Do pistachios contain protein?
Pistachios contain a high level of protein, as do most nuts. This can help you feel fuller for longer, and stop you from craving unhealthy foods later. Eating a small amount of pistachios before bed can improve sleep by making you feel comfortable, and less likely to wake up hungry. Evidence shows that protein before bed can help you sleep quicker, and help you sleep better.
All good so far. What else might there be in pistachios?
Do pistachios contain magnesium?
Yes pistachios contain magnesium, and magnesium is useful for getting a good nights sleep. Magnesium has a calming effect on the body, relaxing muscles and calming down the nervous system in order to work with a greater efficiency. Not only that, magnesium helps the body with maintaining levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA). GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid that works to, essentially, slow the brain down. This calming effect is desirable for sleep. Plus, magnesium can help raise your dopamine levels, which act to boost your mood.
How many pistachios to eat to improve sleep?
Pistachios, like many nuts, are naturally higher in fats. A small 1-ounce portion is recommended, to add to your melatonin, magnesium, and vitamin B6 levels without becoming unhealthy. 1-ounce of pistachios is roughly ¼ cup.
Roasting pistachios were shown to have no effect on the level of melatonin.
Why do pistachios help you sleep better?
Yes. Pistachios contain a mixture of protein, melatonin, vitamin B6, and magnesium. Combined, this makes pistachios a surprisingly helpful sleep aid. Only a small ¼ cup portion is necessary to feel the benefits, and it’s a healthy (and tasty) natural alternative to other supplements.
Magnesium and melatonin both work in different ways to improve sleep. Melatonin works hormonally, telling your brain when it should go to sleep, where magnesium helps the body to relax. Melatonin is a more efficient sleep aid, but that’s not to undersell the benefits of magnesium. So isn’t it great that pistachios contain them both?
Protein and vitamin B6 are both essential for the body to work well. Eating a small 1-ounce portion of pistachio before bed provides you with needed vitamins as well as contributing to a better night sleep.
What other food can help you sleep?
Outside of pistachios, other nuts are a helpful sleep aid. Almonds and walnuts both contain melatonin. Cherries also contain melatonin, as well as other helpful compounds like tryptophan, potassium, and serotonin. The omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in fatty fish such as salmon are also considered to help sleep. Kiwifruit has also been shown to aid sleep. Studies indicate that eating 2 kiwifruits 1 hour before bed can help you fall asleep faster, and sleep better.