Foods to Avoid and Eat for Sleep
Author: Gabby Gamino, LVN, Office Manager
Good quality sleep is vital for your immune system and overall well-being. Disturbed sleep or chronic insomnia can leave you feeling moody, feeling foggy during the day and can impair memory. For occasional sleepless sufferers, this can be a just a mild irritation, but for those frequently not meeting their sleep quota, it can have long-term effects on both your mental and physical health.
Sleep affects how you look, feel and perform on a daily basis. When you sleep, several physiological changes occur in the body. Your blood pressure and temperature drop and your breathing and heart rate slows. During this time of calming inactivity, your body preforms many critical repair and restorative functions. New cells are made, old ones are removed and the brain re-stocks the various transmitters that were used during the day (among many others). Without this crucial time for your body to unwind and repair, your immune system will weaken, making you more susceptible to illness and disease.
After a good night’s sleep, you should wake up feeling refreshed and energized. However, many people are unaware that what you eat before bedtime can have a direct impact on your sleep. Generally, you should avoid eating a few hours before bedtime because this allows your body to finish the more active parts of your digestive process. However, there are foods you should avoid and foods you can consume to give you the best night’s rest.
Drinks and Foods to Avoid:
- Alcohol – Though alcohol can help you get to sleep quickly initially, it can severely impact your sleep quality. You’re more likely to wake up during the night because it stimulates brain cells to wake up and you’ll find it difficult to fall back asleep.
- Ice-Cream & Chocolate – Ice cream and chocolate contain large amounts of fat and sugar. High doses of sugar cause more insulin secretion, which ultimately makes you feel hungry. Your body will make alarms during the night indicating you’re hungry, which can affect your sleep cycle.
- Celery – It’s a natural diuretic, which means it will make you urinate more often. If you eat celery before going to bed, you may find yourself having to get up to go to the bathroom, which can make it difficult falling back asleep.
- Red Meat – While red meat can have some sleep-inducing amino acids, such as tryptophan, it’s a very heavy food and takes a long time to digest. If you do have red meat for dinner, make sure you drink some water and have a few hours to let your body digest before bedtime.
- Greasy Foods & Pizza – Most greasy food and pizza will contain some form of stimulating glutamate which will make you overindulge. These foods can cause upset stomach, including heart burn, which will distract you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Drinks and Foods That Help You Sleep:
- Coconut Water – Packed with potassium, calcium and magnesium, this drink will balance the level of minerals in the body and regulate hydration, resulting in a peaceful night’s sleep.
- Herbal Tea – Chamomile, passionflower and lemon balm tea can relax the body’s nerves and muscles by increasing the level of glycine (chemical that naturally sedates the body). Feel free to add some organic honey too! Honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily.
- Pumpkin Seeds – These little super seeds are packed with magnesium, which help relax our muscles. It also helps support the pineal gland which produces melatonin (the sleep-wake hormone).
- Barley & Oats – These slow-releasing carbohydrates help stabilize blood sugar levels before going to bed – this ensures your body doesn’t release too much adrenaline while you sleep, which can wake you up.
- Almonds & Walnuts – Almonds are rich in magnesium and walnuts are a good source of tryptophan. Both nuts may help you fall asleep faster and keep you from waking.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, try changing your diet and avoid eating a few hours before you go to bed and see if it helps. Research shows that what we eat can directly affect our sleeping patterns, especially if you pair it with late-night TV, stress and auditory stimulation (loud music). We all know that everyone’s not perfect and there will be times where we overindulge, just make sure it doesn’t become routine. There’s nothing better for your body than a good night’s sleep!
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.