Not many people realize how much the things we eat before we sleep, can affect how our night goes. Some foods can keep us up late into the night or wake us from sleep, effecting the amount of actual rest we’re getting. Other foods can enhance our restfulness. Here’s what you need to know about those late-night snacks and how to hack them to get your forty winks.
There are an abundance of options when we think about late night snacks and each one affect us differently. The foods we want to put into our bodies before going to bed are the ones that effect our neurochemistry in a way that primes us for sleep time. These foods are high in things like tryptophan, vitamins B3 and B6, calcium and magnesium, all of which get our body producing the right state for sleep.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps us produce the serotonin and melatonin which allow us to regulate our sleep. Foods that are high in tryptophan are sesame seeds, fish, poultry, eggs, bananas, cottage cheese, lentils and oats.
Calcium and magnesium are natural sedatives that get us into a relaxed state and ready for rest. Foods high in these minerals are sesame seeds, almonds and dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamins B3 and B6 once again help in the production of melatonin and serotonin. Foods high in these vitamins are things like poultry, salmon, mackerel, mushrooms, asparagus, dark green leafy vegetables and bananas.
So, the top foods that cover all these grounds are bananas, which while usually considered an energy enhancing food, also relax muscle and help encourage sleep. Almonds, which have healthy fats, tryptophan and magnesium, reducing an overactive nervous system. Honey stimulates melatonin release and shuts down orexin which keeps us alert. Oats contain a plethora of vitamins and amino acids that help melatonin production. Finally, turkey is a great source of tryptophan and protein, not only making you feel full, but also drowsy, thus the Thanksgiving food coma we’ve all come to know.
Here are a few foods to avoid before bed. These either interrupt our sleep cycle, keep us awake, or can wake us in the middle of the night. First and perhaps most obvious is coffee. Make sure to limit coffee intake after 3 pm as it stays in our system for a long time and we want ample time for our bodies to process it before it’s melatonin blocking properties wear off. Next, perhaps consider skipping that night cap. Alcohol may help you feel drowsy but also ends up hindering our ability to get deep sleep and to stay there. It also has the side effect of making us have to use the bathroom often in the middle of the night when we’d normally be in our deepest sleep. This is also why it’s good to avoid a lot of fluids right before bed. Spicy food can cause heartburn, disturbing our sleep hours. Fatty foods are hard for us to digest and are also more likely to cause heartburn in the wee hours of the nights. Finally, and I regret having to write this, cheese, which contains high amounts of the amino acid tyramine, makes our brain feel more alert. Now you know why you have those late-night pizza dreams.
Snacking before bed doesn’t have to be too complicated, and now that you know what to add and what to steer clear from, you can rest assured, snack your way to a good night’s sleep.
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