Many environmental factors affect our sleep. There may be late nights in the office, stress at home, or trouble staying asleep on a bad mattress. Nutrition also plays an essential role in establishing good sleep health and habits.

For example, according to this article on WebMD it might be the size of your meal that is causing the less than restful sleep at night. While you might feel drowsy after a big feast your body is focusing all of its energy on digesting the meal, leaving your brain without the right cues to induce sleep. They recommend having your biggest meal at lunchtime and reducing your dinners to 500 calories or less. You may also feel the effect of spices and garlic when you try to sleep. Heartburn and indigestion can really disrupt your sleep cycle. Foods that cause gas should be avoided too and stop hurrying through your meal and chew thoroughly.

So knowing all of this information, what are the best and worst foods for sleep? Let’s take a closer look.

Best foods for sleep

Fish, especially the fatty kinds like tuna and salmon, boost your body’s vitamin B6 levels which in turn promotes the production of melatonin.

While you’ve probably heard that rice, as a carbohydrate, isn’t great for you it turns out that jasmine rice can help regulate your sleep cycle. It has a high glycemic index which means the body breaks it down much slower than other foods releasing glucose into the blood gradually.

You can serve a family of four with this simple recipe. All you need is one cup of jasmine rice, fresh chopped herbs like parsley, thyme, and chives, salt, pepper, lemon, ginger, and 4 skinless salmon filets. Cook the rice according to the package directions. For the fish, cook it thoroughly under the broiler and coat with the spices. The ginger goes in the rice to give it a fresh kick of flavor.

Yogurt, cherry juice, and fresh bananas are also great for promoting healthy sleep. You can use them together as an evening snack to cut down on late night food cravings and help you get to sleep faster. It is believed that a calcium deficiency is one of the leading culprits of sleeplessness. Tart cherry juice is packed with natural melatonin and can help you beat insomnia. Bananas, like fish, help with vitamin B6. Mix a cup of yogurt with sliced bananas and enjoy cherry juice on the side.

Garbanzo beans, more commonly known as chickpeas, are also packed with vitamin B6. Pair them with the superfood kale, which has as much calcium as any dairy product, to make a sleep-potion for your family.

To make this salad you’ll need a few ingredients besides chickpeas and kale including extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh herbs. The original recipe calls for hot sauce but you can leave this out to avoid the unpleasant after-effects of spicy food. The roasted chickpeas are added to the kale and topped with the dressing for a delicious and nutritious salad that will help you sleep easier.

Of course, there is always the tried and true turkey dinner that usually helps put everyone to sleep on Thanksgiving Day. This is because it contains the tryptophan, a chemical that can help you doze off. That being said, it would take a lot of turkey to help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but a little can get you off in the right direction. Add a side of sweet potatoes for an extra kick of complex carbs and potassium.

Make this meal using your most convenient set-and-forget kitchen tool: the slow cooker. Combine whipped cream cheese, butter, soy sauce, herbs in a bowl. Place the turkey breast in your slow cooker and cover with the flavor mixture. Cook on high for four to six hours until the turkey is cooked through and tender.

Foods to avoid

Not all foods are your friends when it comes to getting a better night sleep. Here are some foods you should avoid to give yourself a better chance to catch some ZZZs.

  1. Caffeine: Everyone knows that caffeine is a stimulant but that doesn’t stop them from drinking plenty of it, even after the morning meeting pick-me-up. Avoid all caffeine in the afternoon including coffee, sodas, and teas. Avoid energy drinks like Red Bull at all times.
  2. Dark chocolate: What you may not know is that chocolate, especially the dark variety, contains quite a bit of caffeine. A dark chocolate bar can have as much caffeine as an espresso shot. On top of the caffeine concerns, chocolate also has a component called theobromine which increases your heart rate and can inhibit sleep.
  3. Fat bombs: Fatty foods are so comforting but can be so dangerous when it comes to regulating your sleep cycles. Grabbing a cheeseburger at the drive-thru on your way home at night can make your stay up way past your bed time whether you want to or not. Not only does it require your body to focus a lot of its energy on digestion rather than sleep, it can also indigestion and heartburn.
  4. Spicy foods: Speaking of heartburn, spicy foods should also be avoided before you try to get some sleep. This can include anything from hot wings to Indian curries. And, more importantly, don’t combine high fat foods with super spicy condiments which can create a lethal combination when it comes to sleeping better.
  5. Alcohol: While it might seem that you can fall right to sleep after drinking, it is not recommended to use wine, beer, or liquor to help you sleep at night. While it is a depressant it doesn’t exactly work to keep you asleep. Your body metabolizes alcohol very quickly which can wake you up often throughout the night.

Have you had any experiences with foods that help you sleep or keep you up at night?

Image by Hotel du Vin & Bistro via Flickr


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