Eat your way to a good night's sleep

Eat your way to a good night's sleep

Not getting enough hours of quality sleep each night has been shown to put your health at risk. What you put in your mouth in the hours before you plan to sleep can affect your sleep quality. Don’t let your food and drink choices keep you up at night.

You don’t need a whole lot of energy to sleep. At the same time going to bed hungry can leave you restless. What you eat throughout the day and in the lead up to bed time can make a marked difference to your quality of sleep.

For decades, sleep experts have consistently recommended enjoying your last main meal two to four hours before you plan to go to sleep. Research outcomes have supported that the metabolic outcomes will help support a quality dose of sleep.

If you’re late to bed each night, it is also okay to enjoy a light snack before bed. Below is a list of snacks to avoid if you’re after a good night’s sleep.

Don’t let these foods and drinks keep you awake at night

Spicy foods

Any food flavours that play havoc with heartburn or indigestion are best avoided too close to bed time. Your digestive system slows down when you’re at rest. Getting horizontal with a tummy full of spiciness will be uncomfortable and have you tossing and turning if you suffer from these conditions.

Simple carbohydrates and sugars

Foods such as white bread, flour, rice or sweet or savoury biscuits or baked goods made up of these ingredients, metabolise into sugar boosting your blood sugar levels. Often, processed snack foods also have added sugar elevating your blood sugar levels higher. Your trusty kidneys are dedicated to trying to remove excess sugars and toxins from the body through urination. Having to get up to go to the toilet does not promote quality sleep.

Heightened blood sugar levels can also make you feel warmer than usual due to the metabolic processes going on in your body, as well as cause irritability and restlessness. Avoid snacking on processed snack foods just before bed.

Caffeine

The stimulant effect of caffeine varies greatly from person to person. If you’re on the more sensitive side of caffeine’s stimulant effects, the first action you need to take is to reduce your daily caffeine intake. Did you know that the effects of caffeine can last as long as up to six hours? The cumulative effect could definitely have you ruffling your bed linen.

Caffeine is also a diuretic and could have you running to the toilet through the night.

If you must have caffeine, ensure your last shot is at least four hours before you plan to go to sleep. Here is a list of just some of the foods and drink that contain caffeine:

  • Coffee: instant and coffee beans
  • Black teas: across the entire range from lighter Lady Grey to an English Breakfast tea
  • Green teas: unless you buy a decaffeinated blend
  • Chocolate: dark chocolate generally has more caffeine than milk chocolate
  • Weight loss medications: check with your pharmacist or GP
  • Pain relieving medications: check with your pharmacist or GP
  • Flavoured soft drinks: not all, but many have added caffeine
  • Chocolate or coffee flavoured treats.

Alcohol

Many people are surprised to learn that alcohol can actually act as a stimulant because it stimulates your central nervous system in lighter quantities, depending on how much you’ve consumed based on your body mass index. Even if alcohol does make you feel drowsy and helps you drift off to sleep, research has found that it is rarely quality sleep. Alcohol falls into the simple sugars and carbohydrates category we wrote about earlier.

Tryptophans (TRP) could help promote quality sleep

The good news is, if you really do need a snack closer to bedtime, foods and drinks containing proteins called tryptophans may help give you a good night’s sleep. Tryptophan is essential for our body to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter with a reputation for making us feel calm and drowsy.

Brown rice, multi-grain wholemeal bread, bananas, milk and fish oil are examples of foods containing tryptophans.

According to the reviewed studies, a balanced and varied diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources (all of which contain plenty of TRP, as well as group B vitamins, minerals, and unrefined carbohydrates) can improve sleep.
— Katri Peuhkuri, Nora Sihvola, Riitta Korpela from the Institute of Biomedicine, Pharmacology, Medical Nutrition Physiology, University of Helsinki.
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