The research shows that most of us aren’t getting enough good sleep. As many as 1 in 3 Americans aren’t getting the kind of quality shut-eye that is necessary for maintaining health and wellness. Getting an adequate amount of high-quality sleep is not just important for staving off yawns, it is also vital for preserving the health of our entire bodies. Everything from digestion to skin health is tied to sufficient rest, and that includes our eyes.

You may think that prescription eyeglasses and over-the-counter eye drops are enough to keep your eyes functioning well, but this isn’t true. You need plenty of sleep and good nutrition, as well.

Eyes and sleep

There’s more of a connection between eye health and sleep than you might think. There are the outward signs, like dry, red eyes that occur when you don’t sleep well. Staying up too late interferes with your eyes’ oxygen levels as well as lubrication. If you wear contact lenses, extended wear time can put you at a greater risk of infections.

Lack of good sleep can leave your eyes inflamed and may even cause involuntary eye spasms. In rare cases, chronic insomnia can damage the optic disk, leading to vision loss that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses. So it turns out that getting some good sleep is an important component of protecting your eyes, but what if you struggle to get to sleep at night?

Many people have trouble falling asleep. There are a lot of causes responsible for poor sleep, including the following:

  • Poor sleep environment

Humans sleep best at lower temperatures. While it’s tempting to ramp up the heat and get nice and cozy, turning your thermostat down is much more beneficial. The bed and pillows you sleep on also have a huge effect on your ability to get good rest.

  • Bad nighttime habits

Many of us stay up too late, drink too much or spend too much time in front of a screen. Blue light from electronic devices may suppress melatonin, keeping us awake. Switching off phones and computers a few hours before bed is ideal, but if you can’t commit to that, then a pair of computer glasses may help stave off the effects of both blue light and eyestrain.

  • Underlying conditions

Conditions like asthma, allergies or any form of chronic pain can hinder sleep.

  • Diet

We often associate food with energy and staying awake, but food plays an equally important part in getting us to sleep.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the role that food plays in sleep quality. Specifically, we’re going to list 6 foods that will help your body produce or use the sleep-aiding hormone, melatonin.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is your brain’s natural wind-down drug. This hormone is produced by the pineal gland of your brain and is crucial for high quality sleep. Many people take melatonin supplements, which are considered a natural sleep aid. But you don’t have to resort to pills to fall asleep at night. In fact, you can get a good dose of melatonin from several different foods (as well as some other useful nutrients).

1.   Chicken (and turkey)

Turkey has a reputation for making us sleepy, but it turns out that other poultry has similar levels of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body transforms into serotonin. The serotonin is then converted to melatonin. This is part of why you feel so sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner.

2.   Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which helps to regulate your overall melatonin levels. Just don’t overdo it with the dark chocolate, or you may end up with more sugar than you bargained for. Fish, soybeans, bananas and avocados are also high in magnesium, just in case dark chocolate isn’t your thing.

3.   Legumes

Garbanzo beans, kidney beans and other legumes, like poultry, are full of tryptophan. Not only that, but many have good levels of magnesium, too. And legumes are naturally low in fat. They’re an overall healthy treat that you may consider adding to your evening routine.

4.   Dairy products

Calcium is an important mineral. In fact, low levels of calcium may be partly to blame for those nights where you wake up at 2 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep. Calcium helps your brain create melatonin from serotonin. So much so that calcium-rich diets are sometimes prescribed to people with insomnia. Many people swear by a glass of warm milk before bed and now you know why.