Most everyone knows the cliché about a big turkey dinner making you sleepy. The science behind the myth involves tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin & melatonin, both naturally occurring hormones that contribute to prepping the body for sleep. While the myth of the tryptophan-laden turkey has been debunked (it’s suspected that most people feel tired after their big Thanksgiving dinner more due to all of the carbohydrate-rich foods & accompanying alcohol than the turkey itself), there is credibility to the thought that many foods help you get your snooze on.
The trick is to combine complex-carbohydrates, like those found in unrefined starchy foods, with foods high in tryptophan. Dr. Sears provides this explanation:
Eating carbohydrates with tryptophan-containing foods makes this calming amino acid more available to the brain. A high carbohydrate meal stimulates the release of insulin, which helps clear from the bloodstream those amino acids that compete with tryptophan, allowing more of this natural sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain and manufacture sleep- inducing substances, such as serotonin and melatonin.
So what do you eat when you want to get some shut-eye? FoodDemocracy.com suggests these simple bedtime snacks that, when eaten approximately an hour or so prior to bed, can help you catch some z’s:
- a glass of warm milk with honey is one of the oldest and best remedies for insomnia
- whole-grain cereal with milk
- hazelnuts and tofu
- peanut butter sandwich
- slice of whole wheat toast topped with a small slice of low-fat cheese
- banana with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter
- rice cake topped with a slice turkey breast
Of course, there’s a flip side to bedtime munchies. There are most certainly things you shouldn’t eat prior to bed. Experts recommend to limit caffeine intake (& be sure to be aware about hidden caffeine like that in chocolate or hot cocoa), stay away from spicy or fatty foods, avoid nicotine, & refrain from large meals 3 hours or less before betime. And while alcohol might make you sleepy quickly, it’s also likely to give you less restful sleep & cause you to wake more frequently during the night. So opt for a glass of warm milk instead of that nightcap.
By combining smart, healthy bedtime snack choices with adequate exercise at least 3 hours before bed, you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time!