Foods That Help or Harm Sleep
Trying to get a good night’s sleep? What you eat may affect your ability to snooze. Check out my recent Good Day LA segment on foods for sleep and see if you can guess which help or harm your zzzs!
Sleep is an underrated but incredibly important aspect of health. From helping to maintain a healthy body weight to reducing your risk of chronic disease, the amount of sleep you get plays a major role in your overall health.
There are many factors that affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep – exercise, stress, lifestyle habits, and of course, diet.
While we all know things like coffee are sleep-inhibiting, other foods and beverages aren’t as obvious. Here’s a list of foods that help or harm your sleep.
Foods That Help Sleep
One study showed that eating kiwi improved sleep in people with sleep disturbances likely due to its content of serotonin, an important sleep-regulating neurotransmitter.
Cherries contain the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. One study showed people who drank 1 oz tart cherry juice a day slept longer than those who didn’t.
Bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium which are important for muscle relaxation. They also contain a little tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to make serotonin and melatonin.
Nuts are a great source of magnesium which helps with muscle relaxation. Magnesium is also required to make the relaxation hormone, GABA. People who are magnesium deficient often suffer from poor sleep.
Carbohydrates promote increases of tryptophan in the bloodstream, making it more available for uptake into the brain. In one study, people who ate a carbohydrate-rich meal four hours before bedtime slept better than those who ate a lower carbohydrate meal.
Beans and soy are rich in tryptophan, which helps your brain make sleep-inducing hormones.
Foods That Harm Sleep
I love a couple squares of chocolate at night, but chocolate contains caffeine and the darker it is, the more caffeine it contains. One dark chocolate bar may actually have as much caffeine as a small cup of coffee.
Onions are a trigger for acid reflux, which can make it harder to fall asleep or wake you up in the night due to pain.
Espresso ice cream sounds delish, right? Unfortunately, coffee-flavoring usually contains caffeine and even small amounts may impact sleep for those who are caffeine sensitive.
This one is tricky because alcohol is a depressant and can make you sleepy. However, alcohol reduces the quality of sleep by causing sleep disturbances, more night waking, and less REM sleep.
Late night pizza is a rite of passage for many young adults… it’s also terrible for sleep. The high-fat content makes it slow to digest, and combined with the acidity of the tomato sauce, it can trigger acid-reflux in the night.
Overall Tips for Good Sleep
- Stop eating about 2-3 hours before bedtime – insulin interferes with melatonin production.
- Avoid high-fat meals right before bed as they can slow digestion and may disturb sleep.
- Make sure to eat a good-sized, well-balanced, carbohydrate-rich meal for dinner.
- If you’re really hungry, go for a small, sleep-promoting snack!
Here are a few healthy recipes including my favorite foods for sleep! >>
- Southwest Edamame Salad – made with legumes and whole grains
- Peanut Butter Raspberry Power Balls – made with whole grains and nuts
- Vegan Blueberry Muffins – made with banana and whole grains
Weigh in: Do you have trouble sleeping? Have you tried eating any foods to help with sleep?