If you find yourself having a hard time falling asleep at night, your tossing and turning may be due to your diet. While you likely know that coffee before bed will keep you awake, what other foods impact your ability to get refreshing shut-eye? And what foods help to promote a peaceful slumber? Read on to find out!
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods energize the body and should be avoided before bedtime. The expert recommendation is to avoid the following foods at least four to six hours before bed. Of course everyone is different, and you know your body better, so above all else, listen to your body!
As mentioned, caffeinated coffee, tea and soda products are notorious for keeping you awake. College students, running-on-empty moms and career go-getters attest! But beware that this list includes chocolate as well.
While caffeine gets the bad rap for disturbing our sleep patterns, coffee and chocolate have another stimulating chemical in common. Theobromine contributes to sleep issues and can be found in chocolate as well as your favorite latte.
Many foodies know that the heat of Mexico, spice of India or other zesty culinary choices may bring about stomach upset, acid reflux or heartburn—especially when consumed before lying down. But there is more to the story.
True, these food-related issues prevent you from getting needed zzz’s. However, spicy foods also produce mild euphoric effects: they make you feel good. Keeping your eyes shut while your body is craving a fiesta proves difficult.
High Fat and High Protein
Foods high in protein and fat prove hard on the digestive system and increase acid production—not exactly a match made in heaven for those looking to fall asleep easily.
While moderate amounts of protein stabilize blood sugars (and therefore sleep), overdoing it can be a problem right before bed. Cheeseburgers, pizza and the like can keep your digestive system in overdrive. Upset stomach and acid reflux are often companions to this all-night food party.
Foods to Consume
So what are some good food choices to induce sweet dreams? Add the following items to your dinner menu or nightly snack to increase your daily intake of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, which relax the body and promote good, healthy sleep.
Sipping a warm cup of milk in a snuggly robe paints a picture of a relaxing pre-slumber ritual. But does it really work? Yes! The tryptophan in milk and other dairy products induces sleep by prompting the body to produce serotonin. By regulating moods and promoting relaxation, serotonin helps you drift off. Greek yogurt and many cheeses have the same effect. Combined with a carbohydrate, like granola or a banana, dairy products efficiently carry tryptophan to the brain to work its magic.
Walnuts also contain the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan. Again, the tryptophan converts to serotonin which acts as a natural sleep aid. Just grab a handful and head to bed. Magnesium-rich foods ward off sleep problems. Add the hunger-curbing power of a healthy (but not too high) dose of protein (also found in almonds), and you have the ideal pre-bedtime snack. Want to know what’s even better? No annoying crumbs!
The hormone melatonin prepares the body for sleep. To naturally capitalize on this effect, fix up a snack of organic tart cherries or strawberries. Add them to Greek yogurt to include the blood-sugar-stabilizing power found in healthy levels of protein. Not a fan of cherries or berries? Bananas raise levels of B complex vitamins, magnesium and potassium which are known to relax muscles. Plus, the tryptophan found in bananas will help to boost your serotonin and therefore, sleep.
Kale fights a major cause of sleep problems: magnesium deficiency. Packed with this mineral, kale in a smoothie or paired with protein at dinner prepares your body for a good night’s rest. Add spinach and watercress for greater relaxation benefits.
The unique combination of vitamins A, B6 and C, potassium and manganese plus the carbs in sweet potatoes get you sleeping in no time. This nutrient-rich, high fiber, low in saturated fat root vegetable promises plenty of health benefits as well—as you sleep the night away!
Combat stress with brown rice. The amino acid GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) in this grain has a natural tranquilizing effect. By taking the edge off your nervous system, brown rice prepares you for rest. Or if you are experiencing a comfort food attack, cook up a quick batch of oats. How does this childhood favorite help you sleep? Once again, the hormone melatonin comes to the rescue.
Tonight, choose one food to avoid and replace it with one that induces sleep. Over time, repeat the process. Soon you will be sleeping like a baby—and eating healthier, too!