Sleep and food
Sleep is the body’s recovery phase of the day. This is when muscles can repair, the brain can recharge, and other benefits occur that we still don’t fully understand.
Studies show that insufficient sleep causes us to seek out high-calorie foods the next day. This can prolong the disrupted sleep cycle and result in poor overall health.
There are some foods and small dietary changes you can incorporate into your day for a more restful night.
Tea is often a favorite choice when it’s time to wind down. Several decaffeinated teas help promote sleepiness. But do any of them work as advertised?
Chamomile tea has been used as a natural tranquilizer and sleep-inducer, and one
(Beware: Some people may be allergic, especially people who are allergic to daisies or ragweed.)
Mom’s remedy never fails. A warm glass of milk before bed can help you sleep better. Besides the soothing sipping, milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid linked to better sleep. Tryptophan is also found in
Tryptophan is most notoriously known for being in turkey, since many people get sleepy after eating a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. While tryptophan is present in turkey, its levels are similar to that of any other protein and not high enough to knock you out.
There may be a link between tryptophan and serotonin, a chemical messenger that helps produce healthy sleeping patterns as well as boost your mood. Eggs, tofu, and salmon are some foods that contain tryptophan. Here’s some more tryptophan-containing and serotonin-boosting foods.
Bananas not only contain some tryptophan — they’re rich in potassium, too. This is an important element to human health and a natural muscle relaxant as well. According to one study, potassium levels also play a role in sleep, with more benefiting slumber time.
Other food sources rich in magnesium include:
- spinach, kale, broccoli, and dark green vegetables
- milk, with the highest amounts in non-skim milk
- cereals, oatmeal, and bran flakes
- sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, and walnuts
Besides healthy sleep, getting the right amount of magnesium can help prevent stroke, heart attack, and bone diseases.
Melatonin is a hormone produced in your body. It’s partially responsible for regulating a person’s circadian rhythm, or their sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin may also be effective in relieving sleeping problems. It’s available in supplement form and touted as a sleep-inducing drug.
Foods with naturally occurring melatonin include:
Besides adding things to your diet, there are things you can cut out to make bedtime more bearable.
The obvious culprit is caffeine. It comes in many forms other than that last cup of coffee to get you through the weekday. Chocolate, many teas, and countless “energy” drinks and products can also make sleep elusive.
Cut out alcohol if you’re really in need for quality sleep. While it may make you feel sleepy, it reduces the quality of your sleep.
Just as the calories you put in make a difference, the ones you expel are just as important. Doing 30 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise is key to overall health. It also helps your body shut down at night.
Another small change is avoiding screen time, especially in bed. This includes TV, tablets, and smartphones. One study found that adults with more screen time overall had more trouble falling and staying asleep. Another