A. The best and worst foods for sleep
Struggling to switch off at the end of the day? If you’ve tried every sleep aid in the sun and still can’t fall asleep, it could be because you’re eating the wrong foods before bed. With a simple switch to certain foods and drinks, you can enjoy a good night’s sleep without any hassle.
Some of the top tips we recommend for eating before bed include:
- Avoid eating late at night as your body converts food into energy.
- Be mindful of portion control, as large portions can upset digestion.
- Avoid stimulants like sugar or caffeine as these will keep you up at night.
- Eat something before your body slows down. Going to bed on an empty stomach lowers blood sugar levels and affects the body’s ability to sleep well.
See how you can improve your circadian rhythm with the best and worst sleep foods.
1. Five worst sleeping pills
You know the old adage “You are what you eat,” but did you know that what you eat can also affect the quality of your sleep? To make sure you’re eating the right things before bed, try to keep the following foods in check.
The high caffeine content in chocolate makes it a poor choice for late-night snacking. In the later stages of sleep, caffeine consumption can cause rapid eye movement (REM) to occur more often, making you feel more groggy the morning after than the night before. Other caffeinated foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks, should also be avoided four to six hours before bedtime.
While cheese is generally considered a comfort food, it’s actually one of the worst foods to eat before bed. Strong or aged cheeses, as well as pickled meats like bacon, ham, and pepperoni, naturally contain large amounts of the watchful amino acid tyramine. Tyramine causes the adrenal gland to release the “fight-or-flight” hormone that increases alertness for several hours.
Spicy foods like curries, hot sauces and mustard contain a lot of capsaicin. This chemical increases body temperature by interfering with the body’s thermoregulation process, which in turn disrupts sleep. Add that to the high energy required to digest the spices and you can say goodbye to a deep sleep. Spicy foods are just one of several foods known to negatively impact sleep. Other foods, especially those high in fat and carbohydrates, should be.
We all know that consuming too much sugar can have negative effects on our health, but did you know that it can also affect our sleep? Sugary foods like ice cream and candy initially cause your blood sugar to rise and then fall as you sleep. A drop in blood sugar alerts the adrenal glands that there is an emergency, which in turn increases cortisol levels and wakes the body from sleep.
Excess salt dehydrates the body and increases water retention, leading to tiredness and fatigue. A study by the European Society of Endocrinology found that salty foods like potato chips and salted nuts are among the worst foods to eat before bed because they help — or “shallow” — disrupt sleep. Experts recommend staying away from salty foods at least two to three hours before bed if you need a good night’s sleep.
2. The five best foods for sleep
While there are many foods to avoid before bed, there are many that can actually help you sleep. Try these melatonin-boosting foods when you need a good night’s sleep.
Cherries are known to be one of the best sleep aids because they naturally contain melatonin. Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice can help promote longer and deeper sleep.
b. Raw honey
Honey stimulates melatonin and turns off orexin in the body: the neuropeptide that makes us feel sharp and alert. A cup of hot water, lemon, and honey is a great nightcap to calm the body and induce sleep.
Bananas are a great food for everyone, but if you usually eat a banana for breakfast, you might want to consider enjoying this exotic fruit before bed. They are one of the best sleep foods due to their high magnesium content, which relaxes muscles and calms the body. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, try sliced banana with a tablespoon of natural nut butter before bed.
In addition to being an excellent source of protein, turkey is also great for inducing sleepiness. This is because turkey is high in tryptophan: an essential amino acid that acts as a natural mood regulator. Tryptophan also calms the body, balances hormones and fights anxiety, which helps induce sleep. Brown rice, fish, and yogurt are also high in this calming amino acid, making them the best foods for sleep.
Like bananas, almonds are a food you need to eat to get a good night’s sleep as they contain high levels of muscle-relaxing magnesium. Magnesium is great for regulating our blood sugar while we sleep, which means the body naturally shifts from its adrenaline cycle into what’s known as a “rest and digest” cycle.
3. The three drinks that can help you fall asleep
Not much of a snack? Here are three drinks that can relax you:
a. Herbal Tea
Chamomile tea in particular has a calming effect. It has been used for centuries to calm nerves and upset stomachs.
You’ve probably heard of people drinking a glass of warm milk before bed. This works because milk contains tryptophan and calcium, which we already know are great for promoting deep sleep.
c. Goji Berry Juice
A 2016 study found that mice consuming goji berries reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. In humans, goji berry juice can improve mood, help with relaxation, and improve sleep time.
4. Don’t sleep on nutrition
Not only does what you eat affect how you feel throughout the day, it can also keep you from tossing and turning late at night. Choose foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and sleep-promoting nutrients, and you’ll be set for sweet dreams.
B. The 16 Best Foods To Eat Before Bed For Better Sleep
Most experts recommend avoiding heavy meals just before bedtime. But do late-night snacks have an impact on sleep quality? According to scientists, it all depends on what types of foods you eat before bed. Here we’ve listed 16 foods that can actually help you sleep better, along with six types of foods you should definitely avoid if you want a good night’s sleep.
Bananas are not only high in potassium and magnesium, which help relax muscles, but they are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan. This compound signals your body to produce serotonin, making you feel more relaxed and ready for sleep.
Figs are another food rich in potassium and magnesium. These minerals, along with calcium and iron, stimulate blood flow and prevent muscles from contracting, making it easier to fall asleep.
A recent study found that drinking tart cherry juice can increase melatonin levels and lead to better sleep efficiency and overall sleep quality.
Melatonin is a hormone we produce in our bodies that is linked to our sleep cycle. Evidence shows that taking melatonin supplements can help improve the circadian rhythm and fight insomnia.
If you like late-night snacking, skip the potato chips and grab a handful of walnuts instead. More than just a great source of melatonin, this nut is also high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Yogurt is another healthy source of tryptophan. If you eat yogurt as a late-night snack, ditch the sugary and flavored yogurts and opt for a cup of plain yogurt instead. Better yet, opt for Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein and lower in fat and carbs.
Pistachios are high in melatonin, vitamin B6 and magnesium – all essential foods for better, deeper sleep.
A cup of chopped kale provides 10% RDI of vitamin B6, making it one of the best sleep foods. Vitamin B6 helps our body produce more serotonin and melatonin!
One study found that participants who ate kiwifruit an hour before bedtime fell asleep 42% faster than those who did not eat. This is possible due to the high serotonin content of the fruit. Kiwi also contains folate, which helps prevent sleep disorders like insomnia.
Here is another food that insomniacs should consume. Spinach is rich in tryptophan, folic acid, magnesium and vitamin B.
10. Cottage cheese
Tired of yogurt? Switch things up with a cup of cottage cheese high in tryptophan and casein. Casein Protein is a slow-release milk protein that wards off hunger. A cup of cottage cheese can help you stick to your diet while you sleep uninterrupted at night.
It’s time to stop feeling guilty about chilling out with Netflix and a bucket of popcorn. This complex carbohydrate can help you feel sleepy faster. Keep it simple (no butter or sauces) and try not to eat an entire bowl to keep it a healthy snack.
12. Nut butter and toast
Nuts are high in tryptophan, while toast is packed with sleep-inducing carbs. Together they make a perfect bedtime snack.
Almonds are another type of food high in melatonin, the hormone that signals the body when to prepare for sleep.
Hummus is made from chickpeas, a natural source of all the sleep-promoting vitamins and minerals, including tryptophan and vitamin B6.
There’s something comforting about a warm bowl of oatmeal. Maybe it’s the high tryptophan and B vitamins!
16. Whole Wheat Crackers
If you don’t want to be too full before bed, try snacking on some whole grain crackers. These are high in complex carbohydrates that can stabilize blood sugar levels overnight.
C. Healthy Bedtime Snacks To Eat Before Sleep
It is traditionally recommended not to eat too late at night. Some studies show that eating before bed can contribute to obesity, and some studies also suggest that eating high-fat or high-carb meals just before bed can make it harder to fall asleep. However, new research suggests that eating certain foods before bed may have some benefits. We share recommendations for some healthy snacks before bed.
1. Healthy bedtime snacks
For many people, the ideal late-night snack can consist of a simple 150-calorie option that’s packed with nutrients. One study showed that eating a low-calorie snack containing carbohydrates or protein 30 minutes before bed helped boost your morning metabolism. You can choose from a variety of healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal that require minimal prep.
a. Banana with Almond Butter
Almonds and bananas are excellent sources of magnesium. Magnesium is thought to play a role in regulating the timekeeping system of plants, animals, and humans, and may have benefits for sleep. A serving of one banana and one ounce of almonds provides just over 100 milligrams of magnesium. Bananas are also high in potassium, which can improve sleep quality, especially in women.
b. Protein Smoothie
For athletes, drinking a protein smoothie before bed can help with muscle repair. Research suggests that drinking whey or casein protein shakes before bed can stimulate a higher rate of muscle synthesis. These benefits can be even more pronounced when combined with an early evening exercise routine. Most health food stores have a variety of protein powders to choose from. There are also usually vegan options for those who don’t want to consume dairy. If you’re worried about overeating before bed, try mixing your protein powder with almond milk or water for a lower-calorie option.
Warm or cold oatmeal can help prepare your body for sleep and keep you full throughout the night. Oats contain magnesium and melatonin, the sleep hormone. Consider making a serving of overnight oat with dried fruit and seeds for an easy late-night snack.
Fruit is another way to get important vitamins and minerals. Eating certain fruits before bed can also help you sleep better. If you’d rather keep your sugar intake to a minimum, you can always find some fruit that’s good for a bedtime snack. Tart cherries (and tart cherry juice) have been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of insomnia. That’s because they contain melatonin and other compounds that contribute to better sleep. You can try drinking a glass of cherry juice about an hour before bed, or you can add cherries to your protein smoothie, oatmeal, or yogurt.
e. Nuts and seeds
A high-sodium diet is associated with poorer sleep quality. Unsalted nuts and/or seeds can be a good substitute for salty snacks like potato chips. Pistachios contain the highest amount of melatonin within the nut family. Pistachios also contain tryptophan, an amino acid linked to sleep quality. Tryptophan helps improve sleep by helping produce melatonin and serotonin. Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds also contain tryptophan. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on oatmeal or yogurt to give it an extra crunchy texture. Cashews and walnuts are also considered good options for sleep nuts. Cashews are high in potassium and magnesium, and walnuts can help synthesize serotonin.
Yogurt is high in calcium, and some research suggests that including calcium in your diet may help you fall asleep and lead to more restful sleep. A 100-gram serving of whole milk yogurt contains about 121 milligrams of calcium. Yogurt also contains protein, as well as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and magnesium, all of which may contribute to deeper sleep. In addition, yogurt contains gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an important neurotransmitter that helps calm the body in preparation for sleep. Try to find a plain or reduced-sugar option, as some yogurts can contain high levels of added sugar. You can also top your yogurt with berries or nuts.
2. Foods to avoid before bed
Some foods can cause an upset stomach or prevent you from falling asleep.
a. Too much sweets and carbohydrates
While meals that raise blood sugar can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, research suggests that diets low in vegetables and fish but high in sugar and carbohydrates are often associated with poor sleep.
b. Fatty, spicy and acidic foods
People who suffer from acid reflux should have their last meal a few hours before bedtime and avoid common trigger foods like mint or spicy, greasy, or highly acidic foods.
Caffeinated beverages like soda, coffee, tea, and energy drinks have been shown to negatively impact mood and sleep in both adults and children. Try to limit caffeine to 400 milligrams or less per day and avoid drinking caffeine too close to bedtime.
Alcoholic beverages can help you fall asleep initially, but alcohol can decrease overall sleep duration, affect sleep quality, and potentially worsen symptoms of certain sleep disorders. Try switching to herbal teas or water a few hours before bed.