The Best Foods To Eat To Help You Sleep Well

We all know two things about diet and sleep. Firstly, caffeine is very bad for us. And, secondly, that cheese gives us nightmares. The first we learnt by experience and the second after being told so repeatedly. Whilst one is true (caffeine really is terrible for sleep) cheese, on its own, is not responsible for bad dreams (though it might stop you drifting off because it contains chemicals like tyramine which can stimulate brain activity).

But what about looking at sleep and diet another way? What can we eat and drink to help us drift off?

Turkey + Carbohydrates = zzzzzzz

High on the list of any sleep diet is turkey and we’ve all experienced the post-Thanksgiving or Christmas meal nap that comes after consuming large quantities of this poultry. But what is it that sends us off?

It turns out it might not actually be the tukey. Turkey contains tryptophan which can be used as a sleep aid. However many meats contain this chemical and aren’t known for inducing slumber.

According to studies then, it might not be the tryptophan on its own that causes us to crash. Rather, it is the excessive consumption of carbohydrates (in the mac & cheese or potatoes) in combination with the tryptophan that does it. The carbohydrates are turned into insulin and this, in turn, stimulates the absorption of BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) without affecting the tryptophan. Because more BCAA is being absorbed, the blood has a greater quantity of tryptophan than usual and less competition for it.

According to studies then, it might not be the tryptophan on its own that causes us to crash. Rather, it is the excessive consumption of carbohydrates (in the mac & cheese or potatoes) in combination with the tryptophan that does it. The carbohydrates are turned into insulin and this, in turn, stimulates the absorption of BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) without affecting the tryptophan. Because more BCAA is being absorbed, the blood has a greater quantity of tryptophan than usual and less competition for it. This means more tryptophan makes it to the blood-brain barrier where it is converted into serotonin and, later, melatonin, helping us fall fast asleep after lunch. So, if you want to sleep, don’t just eat turkey – eat the carbs too.

This means more tryptophan makes it to the blood-brain barrier where it is converted into serotonin and, later, melatonin, helping us fall fast asleep after lunch. So, if you want to sleep, don’t just eat turkey – eat the carbs too.

Bananas

Move over avocados: bananas are sleep’s superfood. These delicious fruits contain large amounts of magnesium and magnesium is one of the 7 macro-minerals our bodies need to function. The problem is we don’t get enough of the stuff. According to studies, nearly half of men and women in the US aren’t getting enough magnesium and one of the side-effects of such deficiency is restless sleep. It also helps maintain healthy levels of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) which help to reduce the activity of the neurons in our brains.

Consuming the right amount of magnesium maintains our GABA level which can help bring about sleep. In other words, eat more bananas which contain 27mg of the mineral per 100g to help maintain your magnesium levels and get the best night’s sleep.

Almond Butter

Dr Lutz Graumann, a doctor specialising in sports medicine, who has spent years research sleep, recommends eating a tablespoon of Almond Butter before bed. The principle, he argues, is that it will remind you of being a young child, when napping was easy and frequent, and this will help lull your brain into sleep.

Fish

It turns out that fish isn’t just good for the brain, it’s good for the body too. Fish is often rich in omega-3 fatty acids and, according to the UCLA Centre for East West Medicine, these can reduce the surge of stress hormones and promote restfulness. This makes sense because the last thing we want before falling asleep is for our bodies to flood with stress hormones that are usually associated with a flight or fight response.

Additionally, fish contains lots and lots of vitamin B6 which the body needs to create melatonin which, in turn, helps the brain understand when it is time to fall asleep. So, time to get stocked up for a fish supper.

Sweet Potatoes

According to clinical psychologist Michael Breus, sweet potatoes are just the thing to help you relax before bed. Before we sleep, our muscles need to loosen up and relax. The process signals to other parts of the body that it is time to get some shut eye. And this is where sweet potatoes come in because they are loaded up with potassium. So next time you’re worried about sleeping, throw some sweet potatoes into the oven or mash them up or chip them or sauté them… the options are endless.

Tom Williams

3 thoughts on “The Best Foods To Eat To Help You Sleep Well

  1. Hi there, so thanks for your article, it really usefull and helpfull for me. I have found this information at everywhere i can but the result is nothing. But when i read your article, is the only one brought me these information clearly and most exactly. I just want to encourage you: Keep doing this and write more articles like this in future. Thank you so much.

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