Sleep Care

Food for Thought…and Sleep

Foods that hinder and aid sleep You know the feeling. You toss and turn, go to the bathroom, turn on the ceiling fan, but nothing works. You just can’t sleep. Yet, you can’t really figure out why. Well, here’s some food for thought. The next time sleep evades you look at what you had for dinner. It

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very well could be the culprit. In fact, while some foods can serve as natural sleep aids, other foods have quite the opposite effect. For this reason, it’s important to know which foods to eat and when. Here is a list of the top foods to avoid before bedtime, followed by some foods that can aid in restful sleep. Protein. Researchers have found that protein takes longer to digest and it contains an amino acid that promotes brain activity. Not only will your stomach be busy burning it up, but also your brain may be working non-stop as well – two things that definitely impact insomnia. High-Fat Foods. Numerous studies show that consuming a lot of fat during the day will disrupt your sleep. Therefore, you should definitely limit your fat intake – especially before you turn in for the night. Spicy Foods. Although Mexican foods and other dishes containing garlic, chilies, red pepper and other spices can be delicious to eat, they also can be taxing on your system right before bed. Additionally, if you struggle with indigestion or heartburn, it can amplify those problems, especially if you are trying to rest. Caffeine. While it’s common sense that a cup of coffee before bed is not a wise idea, you also need to watch out for sources of hidden caffeine. For instance, chocolate cake, hot cocoa, Coca-Cola, iced tea and even decaffeinated coffee can be keeping you up at night. Even some medications contain caffeine. In fact, if you really want to improve your sleep get rid of caffeine from your diet completely. Nightcaps. Many people falsely believe that a glass of wine or a stiff drink will help them sleep better. But the truth is, even though you might fall asleep faster, your slumber is anything but restful. Alcohol causes you to wake more, sleep more restlessly, experience night sweats and develop headaches. It can even cause nightmares. For a good night’s rest, avoid alcohol four to six hours before bed. Ginseng Tea. Although herbal teas are often great for aiding with sleep, Ginseng tea is not one of them. In fact, it has been show to act as a stimulant and even though some tea drinkers don’t notice any difference, others can experience insomnia and even hypertension. Gassy Vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and beans are good for you, no doubt. But try to consume them in the middle of the day. It’s no secret that these veggies can produce a lot of gas, and a stomach full of painful gas will keep anyone awake.   Large Meals. Nutritionists have said for years that your daily meals should gradually get smaller. Not only is this a healthy practice, but it also can aid with sleep. Researchers have found that large meals (more than 500 calories) can overtax your digestive system. To help improve sleep, you should not be eating large meals in the evening, especially close to bedtime.   So now that we have indicated all the things you shouldn’t eat if you want to get a good night’s rest, what can you eat to promote sleep? Here are some ideas. Cherries. Whether fresh or dried, cherries are one of the only natural foods that contain melatonin. Melatonin is the chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep. In fact, researchers have found that cherries have such high levels of melatonin that you could use them as a sleep aid by eating them an hour before bed. You might even try eating them before flying if you are hoping to sleep on the plane. Bananas. Researchers have found that both the potassium and magnesium found in bananas are natural muscle relaxants. Bananas also contain tryptophan, which gets converted to serotonin and melatonin in the brain – all of which help promote sleep. Cereal. Foods rich in carbohydrates trigger insulin production, which induce sleep by speeding up the release of tryptophan and serotonin.

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These two brain chemicals not only help you relax, but can help you sleep as well. In addition to cereal, you might consider a slice of toast, bread and cheese or even yogurt and crackers. Oatmeal. A nice, warm, steamy bowl of oatmeal will trigger a rise in blood sugar. This in turn, triggers insulin production and the release of sleep inducing brain chemicals. Additionally, oats are rich in melatonin, which has been known to promote sleep. Warm Milk. Milk contains tryptophan, which causes the brain to release serotonin. Milk’s also high in calcium, which can promote sleep as well. Other foods that are high in tryptophan include honey, nuts and seeds, and eggs. Turkey. Everyone knows that people love to nap after a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. Much of this has to do with the tryptophan in turkey. Researchers suggest that to get the most of the tryptophan in turkey, eat a slice of white turkey meat on a slice of whole-wheat bread in the middle of the evening to promote sleep.      

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