Even though the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 60 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder, little consensus seems to exist about the best way to treat them. While there might not be a definite solution to sleeping better at night, there are several steps you can take to help your body become a little more relaxed before bedtime.
What you eat for dinner can have a major impact on how you sleep later on that night. Knowing which foods to enjoy before sleep and which to avoid before sleep can mean the difference between receiving a full nights rest and spending hours tossing and turning.
Foods to Enjoy Before Sleep
Anyone who’s felt an overwhelming urge to crawl under the table and take a nap shortly after enjoying a filling Thanksgiving meal has experienced the effects of tryptophan first hand. A basic amino acid, tryptophan helps to promote rest by triggering the creation of sleep-inducing melatonin in the brain. Of course you don’t need to cook a turkey to eat foods full of tryptophan. Seeds and nuts, bananas, honey, dairy products, and eggs all contain ample amounts of the amino acid.
Eating turkey alone isn’t the only thing that brought upon your holiday coma, however. Carbohydrates are another tryptophan rich food group that can greatly aid you getting a good night’s rest. When eaten together, carbs help to compliment dairy products by really ratcheting up the tryptophan levels in the blood. Some of the more sleep inducing snack combinations you could try consuming before bedtime include a bowl of cereal and milk, cheese and crackers, or nuts and ice cream.
If you find yourself constantly struggling with insomnia, try eating a little food just prior to bedtime. A little food late can help trigger melatonin production in the brain, which will help you rest a little easier. However, make sure to keep your snack small, as eating a large meal right before bedtime will work your digestive system, which could make you uncomfortable and unable to sleep.
Foods to Avoid Before Sleep
Just as certain foods can help aid your quest for a good night’s rest, other types of foods can work to disrupt sleep patterns. Research has shown that individuals who often eat foods high in fat not only gain additional weight, they also have trouble maintaining a consistent sleep cycle. Burgers, brats, pizza, and other types protein-rich foods also make terrible late night snacks, as these foods are difficult for your already slowed down digestive system to process. This can lead to indigestion and heartburn, two things that will only make it more difficult to sleep. You should also consider forgoing any spicy foods late at night for this same reason.
You should also keep in mind what you eat or drink at night to ensure that it doesn’t contain anything that could keep you up. While it seems obvious that drinking a cup of coffee before bedtime could keep you awake, even moderate caffeine consumption at night can cause a disruption in your sleep. Less obvious sources of caffeine can include soft drinks, chocolate, hot coco, tea, and even decaffeinated coffee, which still contains small amount of caffeine.
Some types over-the-counter and prescription drugs even contain small doses of caffeine that could contribute to loss of sleep. Pain relievers, diuretics, weight loss pills, and cold medications may contain as much if not more caffeine in them as a small cup of coffee. Make sure to examine the label or ingredient sheet of any medication prior to taking it late at night to determine if it could interfere with your sleep.
Drinking and smoking prior to bedtime can also lead to too much tossing and turning. Much like caffeine, nicotine acts like a stimulant that can keep you awake, and while alcohol may help you quickly fall asleep, you may experience less restful sleep, night sweats, and headaches depending on how much you consume.
Timothy Lemke blogs about health issues for Dr. Sara Barber, a Vancouver WA dentist at Smiles Dental.