Sleep! What Foods Can Help You Sleep and What Foods Might Keep You Up at Night
Sleep and food are critical to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. What’s more, certain foods can help you sleep better at night, while some foods can keep you awake.
The amount of sleep that a person needs vary for different reasons, but on average, adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Nutrition experts point to food packed with tryptophan, melatonin, and serotonin that help induce sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that increases the levels of serotonin, a chemical that assists with sleeping, eating, digesting, and stabilizing one’s mood. The hormone melatonin helps to regulate the body’s sleep-and-wake-cycle.
While a light snack before bedtime isn’t completely forbidden, keep in mind that what you eat can help you get to dreamland quicker or possibly make you feel miserable as it tries to digest during the night.
Let’s take a look at the five best foods and five worst foods to eat before bed.
5 Best Foods To Eat Before Bed
1. Fruits. Certain fruits, like berries, cherries, oranges, and pineapples, are good sources of antioxidants that help fight inflammation and free radicals in the body. Besides that, tart cherry juice is recommended for nighttime consumption since it has been shown to reduce insomnia in older adults. According to a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, tart cherry juice produced significant reductions in severe insomnia in older adults.
2. Peanut butter. Nuts and nut butters are good sources of protein. Besides that, peanut butter contains tryptophan and gives the extra benefit of boosting heart health. Peanut butter on whole-grain crackers or half of a whole-wheat bagel has health benefits besides being good to eat before bed. Studies suggest that carbohydrates (which are found in bagels and crackers) can boost tryptophan and serotonin.
3. Cottage Cheese. This familiar dairy product is high in protein, low in calories, and contains tryptophan. It’s also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium which supports bone and tooth health.
4. Nuts. If you’re looking for a good source of Vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol, then hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, and other nuts are for you. Almonds and walnuts, specifically, contain melatonin.
5. Bananas. The bright yellow food is high in potassium, which supports the nerves and muscles and rich in a wide range of amino acids. Potassium is also good for the heart and blood pressure. If that weren’t enough, bananas also contain melatonin to help the body have a deep night’s sleep.
5 Foods to Avoid Before Going to Bed
If you want to have a good night’s sleep, stay away from these five foods:
1. Simple carbohydrates. Foods, like breads and pasta, are usually go-to foods for eating. However, they contain simple carbohydrates which the body breaks down quickly and use as energy. Cakes, candy, pastries, cookies, and soft drinks also contain simple carbohydrates. These sugary goodies can keep you up at night because they give you energy and reduce serotonin levels. Simple carbohydrates also lack vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
2. Fried foods. Deep-fried fish, french fries, fried chicken wings or chicken strips, potato chips, and fried breaded cheese sticks may be just the right snacks for parties or watching sports on television. But, these foods are high in salt, calories, and fat, and bad for your health. Besides that, fried foods take a long time to digest and reduce your serotonin levels.
3. Red meat. Steak, pork, and hamburger may be high in protein, but they take hours—and sometimes even days—to digest. It’s best to avoid red meat all together before bedtime.
4. Pizza. A national survey conducted by Sara Lee Corp., known for its variety of breads and baked goods, found that pizza is the No. 1 go-to comfort food in the country. What helps to make pizza tasty is the tomato sauce. Unfortunately, tomato sauce is high in acid, which can cause indigestion and heartburn if you fall asleep right after you eat.
5. Cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussel sprouts, are a healthy choice. And, they taste even better with vegetable dip. But cruciferous vegetables take a long time to digest and may make you feel uncomfortable during the night.
Sleep-Inducing Snack Suggestions
The Cleveland Clinic offers a few suggestions of food combos that can help settle you in for a good night’s sleep:
- A banana with low-fat yogurt
- Low-fat cottage cheese with a few 100-percent whole-grain pita chips
- Peanut butter on 100-percent whole-grain crackers
- An apple with mozzarella string cheese