Foods to avoid or eat to ensure a good night’s rest
What do heartburn, trips to the bathroom, and insomnia have in common? They keep you from getting the quality sleep your body needs for optimal functioning. And they may all be caused by what you eat and drink in the hours before bed. Some foods hinder sleep while others actually promote it. It’s fine to have a small snack before turning in for the night as long as you’re smart about what you eat.
Here are a few of the worst and best foods to eat before bed.
Worst: Greasy, Fatty Foods
Wonder why you suffer from heartburn and indigestion as soon as you lie down? It could likely be that cheeseburger or bowl of ice cream you ate earlier in the evening. Extra stomach acids are produced to digest heavy, greasy foods with a high fat content and fatty foods weaken the esophagus muscles that are supposed to prevent stomach acids from backing up. These two factors combine to cause heartburn.
Keep heartburn at bay by avoiding fast food, ice cream, fried foods, and cheese before bed.
Best: Food Containing Melatonin
Melatonin, a chemical that helps regulate and promote sleep, is produced by your body and is also naturally found in certain foods. Many people take supplements of melatonin to help them sleep, but all they may need is to eat one of a melatonin-rich food before bed. Pineapples, oranges, and bananas increase the body’s production of melatonin. One study found pineapples to increase melatonin levels by more than 266 percent, bananas by 180 percent, and oranges by 47 percent.
Tart cherries are your best bet at natural melatonin. Can’t sleep or fighting jet lag? Chow down on a handful of cherries and rest easy.
Worst: Spicy Foods
Wonder why you can’t sleep after that delicious Indian food you ate for dinner? Spicy foods may cause heartburn, upset your stomach, and stimulate your senses, all of which keep you from a good night’s rest. Lay off the spice and your sleep will be nice!
Best: Food Containing Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid that converts into serotonin and melatonin, two brain chemicals that help you relax and fall to sleep. Wonder why you feel so sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal? It’s tryptophan! Did your mother ever give you a glass of warm milk to drink before bed? Milk is high in tryptophan, too. Other sources include bananas, honey, eggs, seeds, and nuts.
For many people, avoiding caffeine before bed is a no-brainer. Caffeine is a stimulant, the last thing you need for a restful night. Coffee, caffeinated sodas, energy drinks, and dark chocolate—all high in caffeine—should be avoided in the four to six hours before turning in for the night.
Best: Complex Carbs
Other foods like turkey that promote production of serotonin are complex carbohydrates (whole grain crackers, cereals, pastas, and rice). Better yet, combine complex carbs with foods that contain tryptophan. A small bowl of whole grain cereal and milk or crackers and peanut butter are two options.
Worst: Foods High in Protein
Yes, your body needs protein. Just not right before bed. Protein is one of those foods that takes your body a long time to digest. Sleep slows the process of digestion even further. Your body may have trouble focusing on sleep if it’s working to digest a steak, pork chop, or chicken breast.
Best: Foods High in Potassium
Ditch the protein and go with potassium instead, as it helps your muscles relax. Foods like bananas and sweet potatoes are high in potassium as well as complex carbs, making them great bedtime snack foods.
Both going to bed overly stuffed or hungry can disrupt your sleep, so eat a small snack of the right type of foods an hour or so before turning in for the night.