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May 27, 2011 at 1:48 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

3 Diet Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

Your diet choices at night can certainly impact the quality of sleep to follow, yet it can be difficult to find out just what and when we should eat for good sleep. I have done my best to summarize three key areas to make it easy and hopefully helping you to doze off into Slumberland.

#1.  Get a Good Mix

If your tummy is grumbling and keeping you awake late at night, a simple snack may help you to get some shut-eye. Though do note that I said a simple snack, not a major feast. If you eat too much or eat food that is difficult to digest, your sleep woes may be prolonged while you lie awake with indigestion or a stomachache. When it comes to digestion, you will save your body loads of work by staying away from high fat options and rather opting for a combination of carbohydrates and protein. In fact, this combination is ideal for more reasons than a speedy digestion.

#2. Try Tryptophan

A quick combination of protein and carbohydrates seems to be the ideal pair for a nighttime treat. You may have heard the popular belief of turkey being sleep-inducing? Well, the truth of the matter is that it is not the turkey alone leading you to feel sleepy.

Tryptophan Containing Foods:

There are several foods containing tryptophan, an amino acid believed to have a calming effect:

  • Turkey
  • Dairy
  • Chicken
  • Nuts
  • Bananas
  • Oatmeal
  • Honey.

Yet many are unaware that carbohydrates tend to increase the amount of this amino acid in our blood before it is converted into the true sleep promoter, the hormone melatonin.

Another lesser known fact is that when we overeat, no matter what the nutrient combination may be, our energy level will drop significantly while our body focuses on digesting the massive amount of food recently consumed. With this in mind, it is no wonder many people feel exhausted after their Thanksgiving feast. Regardless, rather than stuffing yourself silly with turkey and dressing why not grab a glass of (warm) milk and a few banana slices to help set the stage for a night of sound slumber.   

#3 Avoid Stimulants

Try to stay clear of caffeinated beverages after 3:00 pm to help ensure a peaceful transition at night. In fact, try to avoid drinking too much of any fluids in the late-night hours as you will subsequently interrupt your deepest sleep with bathroom runs in the middle of the night. While caffeine is most commonly found in beverages such as energy drinks, tea, and coffee (yes, even decaf versions still contain enough to bother the caffeine sensitive), it is also found in chocolaty treats and medications such as pain relievers, weight loss pills, and cold or allergy medicine. Do your best to read the label and watch out for any type of energy promoting product.

Although some of you may not want to hear it, nicotine is a stimulant and therefore yet another source of sleep-interrupting caffeine. If you are addicted to nicotine I certainly encourage you to seek help to quit, though for those of you not ready to bite the bullet please do try to avoid this unhealthy habit near your bedtime hour (nor when you wake up in the middle of the night) as no matter what you believe, it will not help you sleep.

While every suggestion may not be right for you, I hope at least one will be fit in with your lifestyle to help you gain the sleep your body needs to sustain your energy. It may also be helpful to take a close look at your evening meal as you may be able to prevent yourself from reaching your hunger-point until morning. This would save you the trouble of having to come up with any type of bedtime snack at all… although I must admit, if you are able to squeeze an extra snack into your calorie needs it can be quite comforting J Feeling sleepy?

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