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What to Eat for Better Sleep

Research shows that sleep deprivation slows the metabolism, makes weight loss difficult and is an additional stressor on the body.

Research shows that sleep deprivation slows the metabolism, makes weight loss difficult and is an additional stressor on the body.

Did you know that what you eat can affect your sleep? There are certain foods that can improve your sleep and others that can disrupt your sleep. Let’s look at how to eat better to get a good night’s rest.

Research has shown that people who reported sleeping less than five hours a night consume more calories than those who slept more than seven hours. Other studies have suggested that sleep deprivation interferes with the hunger and satiety signals. People who don’t get enough sleep may have an imbalance of these hormones, putting them at greater risk for health problems including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. Getting your z’s really does impact your health!

Foods that Improve Sleep

  • Foods with tryptophan. Tryptophan is a sleep-promoting amino acid substance. You may have heard that turkey makes us drowsy because of the tryptophan, however this may not be the case. Mostly carbohydrate foods with tryptophan cause sleepiness (turkey and animal-based proteins do not contain carbohydrates). Good sources of tryptophan include dairy, nuts and seeds, bananas and honey.
  • Combining carbohydrates with dairy. Pair dairy sources with carbohydrate-rich foods to increase blood levels of tryptophan. Try yogurt and whole grain crackers, a small bowl of fiber-rich cereal and fat free milk, or a slice of whole wheat bread and low-fat cheese.
  • Light bedtime snack. This may contradict the unwritten “rule” of not eating before bedtime, however if you have trouble sleeping, there’s truth in eating a light bite to help you fall asleep. Remember to keep it small and light. A heavy snack will make your digestive system run on overtime, hindering sleep.
  • Herbal teas. These can have a sedative affect. Pour yourself a warm cup of chamomile, passion flower tea or valerian as a calming routine at night.

Foods that Hinder Sleep

  • Heavy dinner meal. Overeating at night causes a lot of strain on your digestive system that interferes with sleep. Eating late may also cause you to have heartburn. Try to finish your meal at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Alcohol. Although a few drinks may help you fall asleep, too much will disrupt the important REM “restorative” sleep cycle. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop and wake you up in the middle of the night.
  • High tyramine foods. Avoid pork, chocolate and wine before bedtime because they contain the amino acid tyramine. Tyramine converts to noradrenaline, a brain stimulant.
  • Excess protein. Protein-rich foods that are also high in fat are harder to digest than carbohydrates and can make it more difficult to sleep.
  • High-fat foods and spicy foods. A high-fat meal and spicy foods can disrupt your sleep so skip the fried, rich and spicy foods, especially at night.
  • Hidden caffeine. Even moderate amounts of caffeine can disrupt sleep. Don’t forget less obvious sources in chocolate, soda and even decaf coffee. Cut the caffeine at least four to six hours prior to bedtime. Beware of some over-the-counter headache and cold medicines that may contain caffeine, too.
  • Excess water. Cut off drinking water and other fluids a few hours before bedtime. Drinking too much late at night may interrupt your sleep if it causes you to get up and use the restroom often.

Better sleep “hygiene” is possible with a few tweaks to your diet routine. Test them out and see if you can get a better night’s sleep!

For more information on Nutrition consultations at Cooper Clinic for you and your family click here or call 972.560.2655.

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