Food is an important part of our daily lives. And it also plays an important role in our sleep as well. You may think heavy meals are sure to put you into a deep “food coma” of sleep for the night, however that is not exactly true.
Depending on what we eat and when our sleep will be affected. In fact, eating heavy meals late at night can do just the opposite. It can lead to heartburn and other gastrointestinal disturbances that will have you tossing and turning.
There is a reason for the old health conscious adage, “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince, and dinner as a Pauper.” Food is meant to sustain us and give us the energy to get through the day. We don’t need a lot of food to sleep, however, somewhere along the line this message got mixed up.
Our busy schedules could be to blame. So many mornings are spent rushing out to the office or school, grabbing something small, if anything at all. Followed by lunch on the go or at your desk (we’re looking at you, vending machine lunchers). Then finally when you’re back home you’re famished and ready for a real meal. Plus, dinner is usually the time where we can spend time cooking with our loved ones. Gathered around the table talking about our day and weekend plans; it is undoubtedly a special time of day.
However, no matter how special it is, it could be harming your sleep, leaving you sluggish and oversleeping again. The good news is that dinner can still be special and you can still get a good night’s sleep. You just need to know what to eat and when.
The sleep-robbing bandits to avoid before bed
● Spicy food: Not only does spicy food rev up your metabolism, it can give you indigestion. Even if you’re not prone to indigestion, the act of lying down can give you unexpected reflux. More than that, there have been links to trouble falling asleep as well as more time spent awake after eating a spicy meal than not. This is thought to be because of capsaicin, the active ingredient in the chili peppers that can affect your body temperatures.
● Fried food: This is often thought of as good old comfort food. Leaving you rubbing your belly and ready for bed. And it may make you sleepy, but it definitely doesn’t help you sleep. These food tax your digestive system and your body. This means more time spent awake in the middle of the night as your body wrestles with digesting.
● Saturated fat: It’s not too surprising to find the “bad fat” on this list. What’s terrible about that sleep sabator is that when you wake up tired the next day, you’re left craving more high-fat/high- sugar food. It can turn into an awful cycle. It is thought that this is due to the neurotransmitter, hypocretin, that helps keep you awake and manages appetite. An
animal study support this thought when it revealed that eating fatty meals often led to disrupted sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Which food for better sleep?
● Fish: Loaded with the healthy nutrients and also vitamin B6 which is what we need to make melatonin. This powerful hormone is triggered by darkness and help induces sleep.
● Healthy Carbs: According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects fell asleep much faster after a meal with a high-glycemic index food, such as jasmine rice served with veggies. The thought is that these increase insulin which also stimulates the production of tryptophan and helps us fall asleep.
● Food rich in tryptophan: This amino acid is a building block of the sleep-associated neurotransmitter, serotonin. Turkey is loaded with this and is often thought to be why people feel so sleepy after Thanksgiving. However, there are more foods that you can add to your diet with tryptophan. Try adding, eggs, cheese, tofu, nuts and seeds, and chicken to give you a little extra bed-time boost.
When is the best time to eat before bed?
In general, most people eat dinner about two or three hours before bed. And usually, that is a good time to digest, relax and feel the welcome yawns signaling time for bed. If you’re used to a big dinner, however, you may be feeling a little grumble in your tummy before bed. We all know it can be hard to sleep on an empty stomach, so it’s okay to eat right before turning in. Just make sure it’s a small snack that’s rich tryptophan. That means, put down the ice cream and pick up the peanuts. It may be hard at first, but your body will thank you.
Both food and sleep help keep us healthy. That’s why it’s important to make sure we continuously make a good choice when it comes to what we feed our bodies.