10 Foods to Get a Great Sleep

little blond boy eating at kitchen. child holding fork with carrot and sleeping
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Can Food Help You Sleep?

It’s long been accepted that there are some foods that help you sleep and some foods that prevent sleep.

Research is now confirming some of these long held beliefs, and rebuffing others.

But which are the foods that help you sleep better, and which ones adversely affect the amount and quality of sleep we get?

Here are some tips on 10 foods that help you sleep and 10 that hinder your sleep (and a twist on an old favourite)!

In a hurry to get better sleep? Click here to find 10 Foods That Help You Sleep.

Foods that can harm sleep:

Sugar

Here’s something you’re going to like! Although it is commonly thought to be an absolute no no before going to bed, there is not strong evidence that sugar will prevent you from sleeping.

In fact it can be quite the opposite, studies have shown that sugar can reduce the level of Orexin in your blood stream, which in turn tends to make you sleepy.

Please Note:  This is not to say that we recommend eating sugary meals before bedtime. The increase in blood sugar levels before sleeping can make you at much higher risk of obesity and type 2 Diabetes.

Stimulants

Stimulants are generally going to keep your brain ticking over at night and therefore prevent you from falling asleep as quickly as you might like.

Some stimulants to avoid before bedtime include chocolate, cola, energy drinks, coffee and tea. The ingredient in these foods and drinks that keep you awake is of course caffeine.

A cup of coffee being poured and some coffee beans

Caffeine increases heart rate and general alertness and sets the mind racing making it much more difficult to get to sleep.

Artificial ingredients:

Whilst some pople are affected by artificial colours and flavors, and preservatives (studies indicate around 5%of people), the majority of people may show very little or no affect from these ingredients.

Alcohol:

The general conception is that alcohol will help you get to sleep. After all we’ve all been at a party where there’s someone who goes a little too hard too early on the tipple and ends up snoring in the corner.

In general though, alcohol reduces the quality of our sleep.  Whilst it does allow us to fall asleep more quickly and to have  deeper sleep earlier, it reduces the overall amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which is essential for proper restoration.

Salty Foods:

Some examples of salty foods such as chips and savoury biscuits on a platter

Foods which are processed often contain high levels of salt and have many detrimental effects on sleep.

Foods such as crisps, salted nuts, processed meats and savoury biscuits are high in salt.

Studies have found that salty foods will cause us to go to bed later, to wake up several times during the night, our sleep will be less deep and the amount of important REM sleep will be reduced.

Spicy Foods:


Spicy foods such as chillies, hot curries like vindaloos and peppery foods can also impair our sleep quality.

For many years it has been thought that the reason for spicy foods affecting sleep was the indigestion that they cause in many of us, making it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep.

An article in The New York Times (read) cited studies which show that an increase in body temperature following the consumption of a spicy meal was a more likely cause.

So...Which foods can help improve sleep?

Now the we know which foods we should best avoid before trying to get a good night’s sleep, the next obvious question is, what foods SHOULD we eat to improve our sleep?

Chamomile Tea:

An old staple for those of us wanting to drop off quickly once we hit the pillow. Chamomile tea has a mild sedating effect and can bring a sense of calm to your mind.

Bananas:

Bananas have a two fold affect on the body to get us ready for sleep.

They contain magnesium which helps to relax the muscles, as well as having ingredients which stimulate production of the sleep helping hormones melatonin and serotonin.

Bananas next to pots of yogurt, both can help sleep

Here’s an interesting one!

Milk:

 

Does it help you sleep? 

Researchers found that it can, but not for the often quoted reason that it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid.

Apparently foods rich in tryptophan like milk and turkey would have to be consumed in such huge amounts to get enough of the chemical into your brain, that you’d have to roll to bed!

It’s more to do with the routine of drinking warm milk before bed. The psychological effects of doing something as a habit which your brain comes to associate with bedtime, can help you get better sleep. Obviously it doesn’t have to be milk though, saying a prayer or kissing your partner goodnight could theoretically be as effective.

Magnesium:

Foods rich in magnesium include almonds, seeds, black beans, salmon and dark leafy greens. Magnesium helps prevents cramps in muscles and causes them to relax, thereby improving quality of sleep.

Complex Carbohydrates:

Most whole grains belong to the complex carbohydrates group.

Examples include: Barley, Brown Rice and Buckwheat, Millet, and Oatmeal.

 

A plate is divided up to show how much of each food group should be eaten. A knife and fork are in place

Research has found that the amount of time to get to sleep was shorter in groups of people which consumed complex carbohydrates before bed.

The same study also found that people who consumed protein before bed time tended to have less sleep disturbances.

Summary:

In summary here are the foods which may help or hinder you in getting a great, high quality night of sleep.

10 Foods That Can Help You Sleep 10 Foods That Prevent Sleep
Chamomile Tea Chocolate
Bananas Cola
Milk (for some people, read above!) Coffee
Salmon Alcohol
Dark Leafy Greens Artificial Colours
Seeds Artificial Flavours
Whole Grains Potato Crisps
Cheese Salted Nuts
Almonds Chillies
Black Beans Hot Curries

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