Fun fact, bananas are a perfect bedtime snack. Here’s what the banana has going for it.
Your average medium banana (about 7 to 7 ⅞ inches long) contains these nutrients:
- 27 grams carbohydrate
- 3 grams fiber
- 32 milligrams magnesium
- 422 milligrams potassium
- 10 milligrams vitamin C
- 0.433 milligrams vitamin B6
- 0.011 grams tryptophan
So, what? Well, some of those nutrients are associated with better Zzz’s.
Should you eat a banana before bed?
Some of a banana’s key nutrients are associated with improved sleep. For example,
- One study showed that eating foods with magnesium improves insomnia and seems to improve daytime wakefulness in women.
- Another study showed that low potassium levels may be associated with disturbed sleep in people with hypertension.
- Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate mood and tell your body if it’s time to sleep or stay awake.
- Carbs and fiber satisfy your hunger without disrupting digestion at bedtime.
Not sleeping enough is associated with some gnarly health effects like decreased immunity and increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Here’s how bananas may help you sleep better.
Getting enough of the mineral magnesium is thought to reduce anxiety and stress, two big causes of anxiety. According to the FDA, a medium banana contains 8 percent of your daily recommended amount of magnesium. No, that doesn’t sound like much, but every little bit helps.
A research review of 18 studies found that magnesium supplements may improve anxiety, but current evidence is weak and more research is needed. Can’t hurt though!
Other foods contain even more magnesium, and would be a great partner to your banana:
- pumpkin seeds, roasted, 1 ounce
- chia seeds, 1 ounce
- almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce
- cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce
- peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup
- cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits
- soy milk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup
- peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons
- yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces
- breakfast cereals, fortified with 10 percent of the DV for magnesium, 1 serving
- oatmeal, instant, 1 packet
The sleep super twins: Serotonin and melatonin
Serotonin and melatonin are like sister chemicals that keep you happy and rested when they are functioning properly.
A research review showed that diets with carbs, tryptophan, melatonin, and phytonutrients are associated with better sleep, possibly because of their impact on serotonin and melatonin in your body.
Tryptophan (contained in bananas) is used to make serotonin, an important neurochemical in regulating moods. Vitamin B6 (also in bananas!) is a key ingredient in making serotonin. Serotonin is converted to melatonin, the hormone that responds to light and environmental signals to keep you on a good wake/sleep cycle.
Insomnia means you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. A small study showed that it affects about 30 percent of adults. Again, magnesium could have something to do with it.
A research review showed that sleep disorders in older people are associated with magnesium deficiency. Low magnesium can also contribute to heart conditions, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
Leg cramps waking you up at night?
It’s pretty standard nonprofessional advice among athletes and people who have nighttime leg cramps: Eat a banana. But will snacking on bananas (and presumably the potassium contained inside) prevent muscle cramps? A 2012 research review doesn’t support it.
However, the study does suggest that taking a magnesium supplement can ease leg cramps. Maybe reach for that banana anyway. Getting 9 percent of your daily value of potassium from a banana is not a bad move. Just expect to seek other treatments if leg cramps are really cramping your sleep style.
It’s hard to rest with restless legs syndrome
You may have restless legs syndrome (RLS) if when you lay down to rest, you have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. It may feel like a tingling sensation or pain. Moving usually relieves the sensation, but it’s not very convenient for falling asleep.
The only nutrient that helps with RLS, according to research, is iron. A banana does contain 0.307 milligrams of iron (less than 2 percent of the recommended amount), but it’s probably not going to cure your RLS.
Add these foods to your daily routine for better Zzz’s:
Some foods will keep you awake and should be avoided around bedtime for the sake of your beauty sleep. Caffeine is an obvious one. It can disrupt sleep even if you drink it 6 hours before bedtime. The effects are more pronounced the closer the bedtime you consume it. Avoid these snacks before bed:
- Anything caffeinated. Coffee and soda are the obvious culprits, but make sure your bedtime tea is stimulant free, too. Enjoy chocolate earlier in the day.
- A small study showed that foods high in saturated fat and sugar but low in fiber (like ice cream, cookies, cake, you get the drift) are associated with lighter sleep that is less restorative, and waking more often.
- A large meal or high fat foods can lead to heartburn and indigestion when you should be snoozing.
Is a banana your new sleeping pill? Probably not… but it could be even better.
Bananas are packed with healthy nutrients that may improve your sleep, whether you eat them at bedtime or any other time of day. They do come in a neat little package that is just the right size for a bedtime snack, so why not add them to your bedtime routine?
For the best sleep, eat a diet with a variety of nutrients and follow other simple sleep habits like sticking to a schedule, avoiding caffeine, exercising, and reducing stress.