As the dog days of summer fade to just a memory, you may be starting to crave the simple pleasures of fall. Autumn is my absolute favorite season, and I love a cozy sweater and steamy pumpkin spice latte as much as anyone. Yet, over the years, I’ve learned to surrender to nature’s pace. It took some hard life lessons for me to finally understand this simple truth: Embracing the season we are in NOW makes it easier to move through change with grace. Sometimes we’re in such a rush to move to the next season’s comforts, we forget to support ourselves through the inevitable discomforts that accompany these transitions.
It’s no surprise the shift into autumn feels especially bittersweet this year. Even as we long for some sort of normalcy and the surface solaces of fall, the past few weeks have been a hotbed of stress-inducing challenges. In this short period of time, we’ve had to make big decisions about how to proceed with ensuring our children’s educations safely and effectively; decipher our stances on current social, political, and health issues; maneuver through changes to not only our way of life, but also our very livelihoods; manage to thrive while staying in integrity with our purpose and belief systems; and make sure our health and safety needs are met… all in the most collectively life-altering period of limbo we’re likely to experience in this lifetime.
It’s enough to keep a person up at night. Even for those of us with solid nighttime routines and consistent healthy stress relief habits, this period has felt taxing at times.
In my work, I often recommend subtle mindset shifts into a place of acknowledgement, patience and acceptance, combined with practical methods to support the mind-body. It seems to be a little-known secret that good nutrition is synonymous with good sleep… and nutrient deficiencies can cause poor sleep. With this awareness, we will focus on specific foods that can ease your anxiety and help you relax into restful sleep. The benefits of these powerhouse foods are twofold: 1) they provide a key nutrient that is proven to aid with sleep and 2) they are abundant and easy to enjoy right now.
First, let’s explore the must-know nutrient you absolutely need in your life right now: Lycopene.
Lycopene is a phytonutrient found in plants, and one that plays a major role in getting sufficient sleep. Research has linked a lack of lycopene with both trouble falling asleep and also short sleep duration (sleeping five or fewer hours each night).
And unfortunately, lots of people do not get enough of it. Let’s make sure you’re no longer one of them!
A simple way to remember which foods include lycopene is to look for RED / DARK PINK fruits & veggies.
Strawberries & cherries are an exception to this rule. These gorgeous red summer fruits boast their own powerful nutrition benefits, but actually DO NOT contain sleep-supporting lycopene!
Cherries, however, are one of the few natural foods known to contain sleep-promoting melatonin, so definitely include them in your RED sleepy-foods repertoire! )
Here are my TOP 5 favorite lycopene-rich foods for better sleep:
- Watermelon: Cut into 2-inch cubes and freeze, then blend with a little water or 100% fruit juice for a refreshing slushy summertime treat!
- Red peppers: Slice into wide strips and pair with your favorite hearty dip (simple lighter alternative to greasy, fatty chips).
- Papaya: Blend fresh or frozen chunks of this tropical treat into a cool, quenching smoothie (add plain Greek yogurt for a power protein boost).
- Grapefruit: Dice into small cubes, along with pineapple, orange, jicama, and seeded jalapeno. Mix all together with some lemon juice and chopped fresh cilantro. Serve on top of your favorite grilled fish (halibut, salmon, and swordfish are my top picks).
- Tomatoes: Toss diced tomatoes and cucumbers with your favorite vinaigrette and top with chopped fresh basil for a refreshing afternoon pick-me-up snack or backyard bar-b-cue side.
Enjoy these at any time of day to reap the rewards of more restful slumber.
With a simple shift in perspective and this newfound knowledge, we can maximize our excitement for the harvest which is available to us right now. Indulging in these rest-restorative foods now will help us feel relief from over-exhaustion, which will enable us to handle whatever the next season brings into our lives with more ease.
As a result, we will be better able to enjoy those soothing fall indulgences, when their time comes.