Walnuts have been consumed by humans as long ago as 7000 BC, but are believed to have been eaten by our ancestors even further back in time.

However they’re not only fascinating because of those longevity statistics, but also due to their ability to directly effect sleep and your health!

We explain how, next.

Disclaimer: You must always consult your doctor before including a new supplement or food into your daily routine as only your doctor can explain any pros or cons that are specific to you. Some supplements & foods may interfere with medications and/or cause allergic reactions.

display of walnuts
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+/Engin Akyurt

The Health Rundown: What Walnuts Could Offer You!

This remarkable food is an anti-inflammatory, and is loaded with antioxidants too. Both are crucial to keeping your health in check, and can even reverse damage done to your body.

The anti-inflammatory nature of walnuts has been studied before, and is important to note as many major diseases like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s are often linked to chronic inflammation.

Therefore incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – like pumpkin seeds or walnuts – is a no-brainer.

Walnuts are also a great source of antioxidants and are one of the best sources of polyphenols amongst tree nuts. That’s important as antioxidants appear to have a direct effect on sleep quality, as they support the immune system and help promote restfulness at night.

Antioxidant foods also help protect your body and can even reverse damage that has been done by oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress comes about when there’s an imbalance between free radical molecules (which can cause harm) and antioxidants – that imbalance then causes illness and tissue damage. The result can be the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and many others. Therefore eating antioxidant foods – like walnuts or garlic – should be a priority.

The science has been backed up too. The American Chemical Society has stated previously that the ‘antioxidants in walnuts were 2-15 times as potent as vitamin E, renowned for its powerful antioxidant effects.’

Studies have also found that consumption of walnuts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, can improve brain function, diabetes and even depression, and incredibly, have been seen in mice studies to prevent and treat cancer.

Walnuts have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Because of that, several studies have shown walnuts to have a positive effect on health, protect against disease, and boost the immune system.

Eating Walnuts Before Bed: A Surprising Sleep Aid

One of the reasons they can help sleep is the fact walnuts contain melatonin – a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. This hormone is so important to our sleep health that often individuals who are struggling to sleep – or have been diagnosed with insomnia – are prescribed melatonin.

Indeed one study showed that when walnuts are eaten the concentration of melatonin in blood increases. Therefore eating a handful of walnuts before bed could be a great way to top up your natural melatonin levels at the right time.

Walnuts are also a good source of tryptophan – an essential amino acid that we don’t produce naturally, and which we must obtain through diet. Interestingly, supplementing with this amino acid appears to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep because it’s needed in order for the body to produce that all-important sleep hormone – melatonin!

It doesn’t end there either. An ounce of walnuts contains around 15% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium.

Why’s that notable? Well supplementing with magnesium has been shown to help relieve symptoms of insomnia and improve sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset. It’s also been shown to reduce anxiety – one of the leading causes of insomnia.

There’s another sleep benefit too. Walnuts are a notable source of folate – known as Vitamin B9. This essential vitamin tends to be low in individuals that suffer from insomnia and sleep disorders, so topping up folate levels by eating walnuts could help sleep quality.

However there are a couple of caveats. Walnuts are high in fat and therefore calories, so eating too many before bed over a prolonged period may result in weight gain. Some individuals are also allergic to walnuts, so take care if introducing them into your diet for the first time.

Eating walnuts before bed could help sleep quality and onset due to the presence of tryptophan, melatonin, magnesium and folate. All of which have been shown to have a positive effect on sleep quality.

Walnuts with shell
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+/Engin Akyurt

Walnuts: Incorporating Them Into Your Diet

Walnuts are tasty, relatively cheap and can be found around the world. They can also be eaten in their natural form, and so are easy to incorporate into your diet.

There are many other ways to incorporate walnuts into your diet too. You can use them as a topping for porridge, yoghurt or muesli, baked into deserts, or even cooked in curry. You can also chop them up and add them into a stir fry, noodles or pasta to add some ‘crunch’ to your meal.

For sleep benefits, a small handful one or two hours before bedtime will suffice.

Are There Any Potential Side Effects?

If you don’t have a walnut allergy then moderate consumption of walnuts shouldn’t cause any side effects. However, eating walnuts in excess could cause weight gain, and lead to stomach issues such as bloating and diarrhoea.

As always, we recommend consulting with your doctor if undertaking a diet change, or if you have concerns about how a specific food may interact with any preexisting conditions or medicines.