Restful and restorative sleep is one of the most important elements of good health and well-being. A good night’s sleep is associated with several health benefits such as clear thinking, fast reflexes, and a pleasant mood.
Lack of adequate sleep can result in weight gain, poor immunity, and a foggy mind. Eating before bed can have a dramatic impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep.
What to eat or not to eat before sleep?
Here are some foods that promote a good night’s sleep
Serotonin is an important hormone that regulates and maintains good sleep. Eating before bed foods that are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan help produce serotonin in the body. Therefore, tryptophan-containing foods promote restful sleep. A deficiency of tryptophan leads to low levels of serotonin and consequently a disturbance in the circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. While turkey is the best-known example of a high-tryptophan food, other examples are cheese, tofu, red meat, tuna fish, chicken, eggs, walnuts, pumpkin and squash seeds, oat bran, soya foods, beans and lentils. Proteins in our food contain the building blocks of tryptophan, and carbohydrates help in its absorption to make tryptophan more easily available to the brain. Therefore, if you are wondering what to eat or not to eat before sleep, a good bedtime snack should consist of both proteins and carbohydrates, such as cereal and milk, cheese and crackers, or peanut butter on toast.
Melatonin is the human body’s natural sleep regulator and is called the body clock hormone. The brain converts tryptophan to serotonin and then to melatonin, and high levels of melatonin hormone lead to a feeling of sleepiness. Scientific evidence and research have shown melatonin induces and maintains sleep. Eating before bed foods that help boost melatonin production is good. Examples of melatonin-boosting foods include fruits such as pineapples, cherries, bananas, and oranges, as well as sweet corn, tomatoes, barley and oat.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for good quality sleep. Low levels of magnesium make it harder for a person to stay asleep. Foods such as almonds and green leafy vegetables as well as avocado are rich sources of this mineral and have been shown by research to increase the length of time spent asleep as well as waking up feeling rested and refreshed.
Chamomile tea has been shown to promote sleep by relaxing the nerves and muscles and inducing sleep with a mild sedative effect of a substance called glycine. Passion-fruit tea contains alkaloids chemicals that act on the nervous system and cause sleepiness. Eating before bed a spoonful of honey mixed with these teas can be of great help.
Eating before bed: what to avoid
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that is found in coffee, tea, and carbonated soft drinks. It works by blocking the action of sleep-inducing hormones on the brain. A large dose of caffeine stimulates the brain and produces wakefulness for a short period of time before the effect wears off and there is a sudden drop in alertness. If you’re wondering what to eat or not to eat before sleep, then caffeine is definitely on the blacklist. Since the effects of caffeine can persist for several hours, it is best to drink frequent small amounts of coffee or tea throughout the day and avoid caffeine several hours before bedtime, and remember, caffeine is also found in chocolate and energy drinks.
The biggest misconception about alcohol is that it is an inducer of sleep. While it is true that a glass of wine before bedtime can help you relax and fall asleep, alcohol disrupts the normal sleep pattern of the body throughout the rest of the night. The relaxation effect of alcohol is short lived, and it prevents the body from attaining deeper levels of sleep, resulting in waking up feeling tired despite having spent several hours sleeping.
Many people experience a temporary lull in alertness following a heavy meal, but foods rich in fat such as fried chips and ice cream can lead to restlessness later on in the night. This is because the body has to work extra hard to digest fat, and eating heavy meals can kick start the digestive system and disrupt the circadian rhythm.
Not only do spicy foods stimulate the taste buds, they also irritate the lining of the stomach and cause indigestion, leading to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. If a person is prone to heartburn, spicy good can exacerbate these symptoms and lead to disturbed sleep and frequent awakenings. Spicy foods have also been linked to nightmares and should be avoided before sleep.