May is Better Sleep Month and though many times we take it for granted, the amount and quality of sleep our body needs and gets is key to optimal health and well-being—as important as food and water.
In the past, when dealing with high levels of stress, insomnia would haunt me for days. Today, I have become even more sensitive to lack of sleep—it affects my sugar levels, concentration, mood, and general well-being. I am not myself. And so since I am a huge advocate that We are what we eat…bringing awareness to what we eat (I believe) will also improve the way we sleep. I guess we can say that the way we sleep says a lot about the way we eat.
FOOD FOR MORE THAN JUST FORTY WINKS
So here are some fundamentals to help you determine what would help you sleep better. Lets start with some of the basics. We all know that drinking coffee even in the afternoon will affect our sleep. And if you think that that pick-me-up coffee at 3 o’clock in the afternoon won’t have anything to do with the quality of sleep, keep reading. According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the effects of caffeine can last from 8 to 14 hours.
Now did you know that there are plenty of other foods that can affect our sleep?
FOODS TO AVOID BEFORE SLEEP
Fried, greasy and spicy foods; more than two glasses of alcohol, red meat, grapefruit and all citrus fruits. Heartburn can keep you up all night. Fried foods and those with a high fat content will make you feel heavy and while your body has to work to digest them—this interrupts your rest. All these foods increase the stomach’s acidity so if you want to indulge on any high-calorie foods just make sure it is at least four hours before you go to bed.
Avoid a large consumption of water at least 1-2 hours before bed. That also includes diuretic foods like celery, ginger, and parsley.
Other foods to avoid before bed are: aged cheeses, processed or smoked meats, fast food, processed sugar, tomato based sauces, ginseng or green tea, energy drinks. Also, soy based sauces like teriyaki, soy sauce, tofu, and miso (for being high in tyramine) which might trigger migraines and indigestion.
BEDTIME FOODS FOR BETTER SLEEP
Definitely look for foods high in sleep-promoting nutrients like the ones below that will naturally help you promote good serotonin levels.
Bananas contain nice amounts of magnesium and potassium which are natural muscle relaxants. L-tryptophan—in white meats like turkey—the amino acid that gets converted into serotonin and melatonin (natural relaxing neurotransmitters) and it’s famous for its sleep-inducing properties. It has the same effect as a glass of warm milk or even a piece of whole grain toast with honey (increases the insulin production helping release the tryptophan for better sleep).
Almonds and walnuts because they carry a high dose of magnesium, tryptophan, and melatonin—a perfect trio to promote a great night’s sleep.
You might have heard that melatonin is a popular sleep-aid supplement. Raspberries and tart cherries are natural sources of melatonin. So indulge!
Read Related: Raspberry & Rhubarb Soup
Instead of eating your oatmeal in the morning, have it before you go to bed since it is loaded with magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium—all sleep-promoting nutrients.
If you love snacking before going to bed have some hummus with olive oil, like I do sometimes. Hummus is a great source of tryptophan—you know the rest.
Yes, that cup of peppermint or chamomile tea with honey and a nice piece of dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) which contains serotonin will surely help as well.
So go ahead, this month, indulge yourself with great food and getting that extra hour of sleep!
Learn more about Fernanda Beccaglia.