3 Sep 2019
What really are good foods for sleep? Does a glass of warm milk or hot chocolate before bed really make a difference?
According to sleep expert, Dr. Michael Breuss, the jury is still out on whether or not milk encourages sleep. It could be that the enzyme tryptophan, contained in milk, will help you sleep. It could also be true that the habit of drinking a glass of warm milk before bed has taught you that this is a precursor to going to bed. Perhaps the psychological connection with warm milk is what does the trick.
What we eat or drink, however, does affect how we sleep. A recent Australian study showed that men who ate jasmine rice four hours before bedtime took only nine minutes on average to fall asleep, while those who ate the same meal one hour before bed took on average 15 minutes to fall asleep. And strangely, when long-grain rice was eaten four hours ahead of bedtime instead of jasmine rice, the men took nearly 18 minutes to fall asleep. Now the researchers are trying to understand what made the difference.
Tryptophan is an amino acid known to induce sleep. Foods containing it can help you become sleepy and sleep more soundly.
Foods Containing L-Tryptophan
Foods containing L-tryptophan can help make you sleepy, and sleep better through the night. L-tryptophan is an amino acid known to induce sleep.
Sleep experts recommend eating carbohydrates alongside l-tryptophan foods for dinner or bedtime snacks. This will relax your brain and body. A sweet, carbohydrate-only meal or snack will have the opposite effect – it will stimulate your system and make it difficult to sleep.
Foods with higher amounts of l-tryptophan include:
- dairy foods
- meats – chicken, eggs, seafood, beef, pork, turkey
- hazelnuts and peanuts
- hummus and sesame seeds
- tofu, soybeans
Meals to induce sleep
Lighter meals are more relaxing, as a heavy meal can increase your metabolism and heart rate in order to digest it. This can keep you awake. It is ideal to go to bed with a comfortable stomach, rather than one that is too full. Meals like these can help you relax and sleep well:
- pasta with cheese
- scrambled eggs with cheese
- meat and vegetables
It takes about an hour to digest food, so try these relaxing snacks about an hour before you plan to go to bed.
Caffeine is a substance found in the fruits and leaves of certain plants and stimulates the brain and nervous system.
Foods containing caffeine can certainly interfere with sleep. In addition to the usual suspects like coffee and tea, is there caffeine in sodas and caffeine in apples even?
Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that affects the body in a similar way to adrenalin. Everyone has their own sensitivity to caffeine, so what is too much for your friend, maybe unnoticeable in its effect on you. Generally, though, up to 500mg per day is considered by health experts to be an acceptable caffeine dose.
The main dietary sources of caffeine are coffee and tea, with coffee accounting for about 54% of the caffeine consumed. Tea accounts for about 43% and the rest come from other drinks including cocoa and chocolate-based drinks.
Caffeine in coffee
Approximate caffeine levels in coffee per serve:
- Instant coffee: 60-100mg
- Espresso coffee (espresso or latte): 90-200mg
- Decaffeinated coffee: 3mg
- Drip or percolated coffee: 100-150mg
Approximate caffeine levels per serve:
- Chocolate drinks: 30-60mg
- Caffeine in sodas – Cola drinks (Coca Cola, Pepsi): 40mg
- Caffeine in tea (black and green): 30-100mg depending on type and brew strength
- Energy drinks (Red Bull, V): 80-90mg
Approximate caffeine levels:
- Chocolate bar (dark): 40-50mg per 55g
- Caffeine tablets (e.g. No-Doz): 100mg per tablet
- Guarana: up to 100mg per gram
Caffeine in apples
Apples do not contain caffeine. But they may improve alertness. While caffeine stops you from falling asleep, apples give you quick energy in the form of simple carbohydrates. Try substituting your morning coffee for an apple and test how you feel and how long the feeling lasts.
Heartburn is a key symptom of acid reflux and is experienced as a burning feeling that radiates from the stomach to the chest and throat. It often occurs after a heavy meal and bothers people most when they lie on their backs at night. Some foods can worsen heartburn.
People who sleep fewer hours are more likely to experience blood pressure problems, particularly those in middle age. Sleep deprivation is connected with a higher stress response. This can contribute to high blood pressure. Blood pressure is also affected by diet and there are in fact foods that lower blood pressure. If you have blood pressure problems, you could try improving your sleep and your diet.