For better sleep, try eating more of these foods, researchers say

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Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet – and also of balanced sleep.

A new study from Finland examined how fruit and vegetable consumption affected sleep duration in Finnish adults.

The study used data from the National FinHealth 2017 Study, which included 5,043 adults over the age of 18.

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These respondents reported both their food consumption and their sleep habits, the latter of which was compared across three sleep categories: short, normal and long.

Compared to normal sleepers, short sleepers consumed 37 grams less fruit and vegetables per day, while long sleepers consumed 73 grams less per day.

Consuming more fruits and vegetables helps support the right amount of sleep, a new study shows. (iStock)

The study concluded that there is a 'consistent pattern in which deviation from normal sleep duration was associated with a decrease [fruit and vegetable] consumption.”

These findings suggest the need to “consider sleep patterns in nutritional interventions,” the researchers added.

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“Further research, including longitudinal studies, is needed to better understand the mechanisms underlying these associations,” the study said.

Study co-author Timo Partonen, MD, research professor at the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) in Helsinki, Finland, responded to his findings in a conversation with Fox News Digital.

woman sleeping in a bed

The study found that sleeping less than seven hours per night or more than nine hours per night was associated with reduced fruit and vegetable consumption. (iStock)

Sleeping less than seven hours per night or more than nine hours per night was associated with reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables, he noted.

“The most important conclusion is that a lack of sleep coincides with an unhealthy diet,” says Partonen. “This means weight monitoring programs must also pay attention to sleep habits… as this can ruin or aid the outcome.”

“The most important conclusion is that a lack of sleep coincides with an unhealthy diet.”

Although the study took into account each person's chronotype (classifying people as an 'early riser' or 'night owl'), the impact of this trait on the link between sleep duration and fruit and vegetable consumption was 'minimal ', said the researcher.

Partonen identified this study as “cross-sectional by design,” meaning the researchers could not analyze “causal relationships.”

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Based on these findings, people should eat more fruits and vegetables daily to sleep better, he advised.

“Sleep, nutrition and physical activity form a unit,” he said. “A positive change in one of these is reflected in a positive change in the other two.”

a mother and daughter prepare vegetables in the kitchen

The study results highlight the need to take sleep patterns into account during nutritional interventions, researchers said. (iStock)

New Jersey-based dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade also responded to these findings, telling Fox News Digital that it is “not surprising that increasing dietary intake of fruits and vegetables can improve both sleep quality and quantity.”

She added: “Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients that can support healthy sleep. Some fruits, such as tart cherries and bananas, contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.”

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Eating these fruits can increase melatonin levels in the body, which, according to the dietitian, will promote better sleep onset and better sleep quality.

Embracing a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can also help increase antioxidant intake, she said, which can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Sleep may improve as these factors are reduced, Palinski-Wade added.

man picks fruits and vegetables from the refrigerator

Several fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that support better sleep, a nutritionist said. (iStock)

Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are good sources of magnesium, a nutrient that can also help support sleep, the dietitian said.

“Diets deficient in magnesium have been found to increase the risk of insomnia, so it makes sense that eating a magnesium-rich diet could improve sleep,” she added.

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Fruits and vegetables like spinach and tomatoes also contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is a “precursor of serotonin,” a neurotransmitter involved in melatonin production and helps with sleep regulation, Palinski-Wade said.

“Increasing dietary tryptophan intake can promote relaxation and improvements in falling asleep and staying asleep,” she said.

For more health articles, visit foxnews.com/health.

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