Sleep is imperative for our health, happiness and performance both physically and mentally. It’s the one thing that can make everything else better in our life but what can we do to sleep better?
According to research, our diet plays a vital role in improving or worsening the quality of our sleep. There are certain foods that are called sleep promoters as they help induce sleep and some are called sleep stealers because they can potentially rob you of precious sleep and leave you tossing and turning at night.
Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for a good night’s sleep.
Lettuce is a great ingredient to prepare your dinner meal if you have trouble falling asleep at night. Lettuce contains a milky substance called Lactucarium commonly known as ‘lettuce opium’ because it has the same effect on the nervous system as opium: It sedates the nervous system and induces sleep. It really doesn’t matter whether you have it raw or cooked. So grab some lettuce and make yourself some lettuce soup or a big bowl of delish salad for a safe and natural drug solution to your sleep problems. You can even juice it with some celery or lemon.
Cherries, especially tart ones are rich in melatonin, the chemical substance of the brain that helps induce sleep. Help yourself to a glass of tart cherry juice or a bowl full of the yummy fruit at bedtime and you might end up snoozing even before you can finish it.
Who says you can’t have tea when you have to sleep? Forget the caffeine ones and stick to the herbal teas. They not only have great therapeutic uses but are also great to help you settle for sleep. You can choose and blend from so many varieties such as chamomile, licorice, lavender and valerian root.
Rich in tryptophan, magnesium and potassium, one simply cannot miss mentioning bananas when talking about sleep inducing foods. Tryptophan is a chemical that helps promote the sleep inducing chemical melatonin in the brain whereas magnesium and potassium act as muscle relaxants, further promoting peaceful sleep. For these reasons bananas are commonly known as sleeping pills in a peel.
Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are also great sleep promoting foods. Walnuts are rich in melatonin and tryptophan. However, be careful of having too much of these as some people are allergic to walnuts. Almonds are also a great source of tryptophan and magnesium plus they have the added benefit of proteins that can help maintain a stable blood sugar level thus promoting quality sleep.
Rice, especially jasmine rice helps to promote sleep because it contains tryptophan and also because it has a high glycemic index. This means that the body digests it at a slow speed, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream, thus reducing the time it takes you to fall asleep.
The vegan diet is generally very healthy and so, the list isn’t too long when it comes to sleep stealers. However, you have to be wary of certain foods that can disrupt your sleep. Also, it’s very important how you cook your food, making your meal overly fatty or spicy can turn your meal into a sleep stealer even if it’s filled with sleep promoting ingredients. Here are some foods to avoid.
Tea & Coffee
We all know that tea and coffee contain the sleep killer caffeine which is why most people avoid it close to bedtime. However, research shows that the effects of caffeine last long enough. That means that even your afternoon cup of tea can ruin your sleep. Based on how your body reacts to caffeine, avoid tea and coffee in late afternoon and the hours leading to bedtime and gradually decrease your intake.
While a lot of people may treat alcohol as a sleep inducer, beware because it’s actually a sleep stealer. Alcohol tricks the body by inducing deep sleep but it also disrupts the later stages of sleep mainly our dream phase. When the quality of your sleep is compromised, you feel exhausted the next morning despite having spent a good 8 hours in bed.
Soda tops the sleep stealer charts because of excessive caffeine.
Here we have another tricky food in the list. Grapefruit seems like a healthy choice before bed as it contains lycopene, an antioxidant in the body that has been shown to improve the way you sleep. However, citrus fruits can increase the stomach’s acidity and cause heartburn which can keep you up at night.
Fatty foods are not a good option before bed because they lead to poor quality fragmented sleep that can leave you tired and groggy the next morning. That means no French fries or any other fried or unhealthy junk food at dinner.
Spicy food can also disrupt your sleep by causing indigestion. Avoid spicy vegetable cutlets, curry or adding a lot of chili peppers to your meal. Apart from causing indigestion, chili peppers contain capsaicin which is known to disrupt sleep via changes in body temperature.
Eating smart is perhaps the healthiest, natural and drug free way to a good night’s sleep and we hope that this guides helps you to make the right choices for dinner. However if you have insomnia, it’s best to use any food, or herb to help you fall asleep after talking with your doctor. Sweet dreams!
Eugene Gabriel is a passionate blogger. He has always been fascinated by sleep and how it relates to health and wellness. Read his post on Eating before Sleeping. You can follow him on twitter @eugenegabrielj.