Nutrition

Foods to promote restful sleep

Last updated: May 01, 2017

Do you know that what you eat and when you eat can improve the quality of your sleep?

Sleep is essential for survival, and has a strong impact on health, emotional well-being, and how well we function during the day. Lack of sleep is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, inflammation that affects our immune system, and impaired glucose tolerance.1 Use these four food tips to improve both the quality of your sleep and your health:

  1. Use less caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks hormones that make us sleepy, and is routinely used to feel more awake and alert. However, even a small amount of caffeine can disrupt the length and quality of sleep. For some people, even a cup of coffee in the morning can cause sleep problems that evening. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, wake up and can’t go back to sleep, or feel tired throughout the day it may be helpful to reduce or even eliminate caffeine.1 Beverages high in caffeine include coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks.2
  2. Eat a small snack that contains protein and carbohydrate 1 hour before going to sleep to promote sleep. Foods with protein such as milk, yogurt, cheese, fish, turkey, chicken, nuts, nut butter, soybeans, and tofu contain tryptophan, an amino acid that increases sleepiness. Carbohydrates found in grains, fruit, and vegetables make tryptophan more available to the brain, so combining foods with protein and carbohydrate can help promote sleep.3 Milk contains both protein and carbohydrate, and a small glass of milk before going to bed really can help improve sleep. If you don’t enjoy milk, eat 1 slice whole grain bread with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, or ½ ounce nuts and 1 small piece of fruit as your bedtime snack. A small snack is key, because eating a larger amount of food right before bedtime can impair sleep.
  3. Avoid eating snacks or meals high in fat and calories within 1 hour of going to sleep. Large meals close to bedtime make it more difficult to fall asleep and also decrease quality of sleep.4 If you work the second shift, make lunch your largest meal of the day and eat a small snack 1 hour before going to bed.
  4. Many people drink beer, wine or other types of alcoholic beverages in the evening to unwind and help them relax. However, while alcohol may help you fall asleep, it disrupts sleep throughout the night and prevents the essential deeper stages of sleep. Drinking alcohol in the evening can also make you wake up feeling tired.3

References

1.     Golem DL, Martin-Biggers JT, Koenings MM, Finn Davis K, Byrd-Bredbenner C. An Integrative Review of Sleep for Nutrition Professionals. Adv Nutr November 2014 Adv Nutr vol. 5: 742-759, 2014

2.     Caffeine Chart. Center for Science in the Public Interest. https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-of-concern/caffeine-chart Accessed 4-20-17.

3.     Food and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/food-and-sleep  Accessed 4-20-17.

4.     Crispim CA, Zimberg IZ, dos Reis BG, Diniz RM, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Relationship between Food Intake and Sleep Pattern in Healthy Individuals. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 2011;7(6):659-664. doi:10.5664/jcsm.1476.

 

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