Foods to Send You off to Sleep

October 04, 2016

Are you or someone in your family having trouble getting to sleep? Find out what foods could be the culprit and what can help

If you’ve been tossing and turning lately, it may just be what you’re eating. There are a number of foods that can make sleep difficult as well as send you off to sleep easily, here are some tips so that you’re not left counting sheep every night.

Coffee. This is an obvious one. Most people don't realize that caffeine can affect your ability to sleep for 12 hours, especially in people who are more sensitive to it. What makes this more difficult is that many people who drink coffee in the afternoon to stay awake have trouble falling asleep at night and don't realize that their afternoon joe is to blame. Even decaffeinated coffee can have at least a little caffeine, and if taken at night can impede sleep.

Fat. High-fat foods are not a good idea for healthy sleep. Many studies have found connections between overweight and obesity and problems sleeping. There are a number of possible causes for this, and one of them may be fat in the diet. Some recent data has shown that older women who ate more fat -- irrespective of their weight, exercise or total amount of food they ate -- slept less overall. High fat meals also take longer to digest, keeping you awake as your stomach and digestive system works away.

Water. As we age, getting up to go to the bathroom can interrupt sleep, and then it can be difficult to get back to sleep. If you find yourself waking up to go to the bathroom, you may be drinking too much water at night.

Heavy or Spicy Food. One food-related problem that can interfere with sleep is heartburn and reflux. Many people are on medications to control these, but there are certain foods that make heartburn and reflux worse. For a number of reasons, reflux can get worse at night, as you are falling asleep, causing sleepless nights. If you are having a restless night and you ate a particularly heavy or spicy meal late in the day, it could be part of the problem. Listen to your body for clues.

Tea. Tea is relaxing and soothing. And, in many ways, good for you. But tea (real tea, not herbal infusions like chamomile) contains caffeine. Some teas contain more than others, depending on how they are harvested and processed, but caffeinated teas should generally be avoided at night.

Alcohol. Alcohol is good at putting us to sleep, but it makes our sleep more restless. Also, a few hours after ingestion, the alcohol becomes a substance that can act as a stimulant, so 3-5 hours after falling asleep, you may be wide awake, tired, and unable to fall asleep.

Foods to help us sleep.
Eating complex carbohydrates can help us get to sleep, supplying the body with tryptophan, as amino acid that triggers the body to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter that tells the body to slow down and drift to sleep.

Foods high in tryptophan include: dairy products, soy products, seafood, turkey, whole grains, beans, rice, hummus, lentils, hazelnuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds

Popular combinations

Milk and oatmeal raisin cookies. Healthier options might be better for you, but the sweetness gives you immediate satisfaction and the complex carbohydrates keeps you from being hungry during the night. The milk is relaxing and soothing, but there probably isn't enough tryptophan to have a measurable effect.

Herbal infusions. These are really not teas, since they do not have tea leaves, but they are called infusions. Chamomile and valerian are commonly used to help with sleep and may help because of their relaxing and calming qualities. You need to be careful, since some plants are stimulating rather than relaxing, and people's bodies react to different plants in different ways, but in general, herbal "teas" are probably okay at night.

Other helpful meals and snacks include, pasta with Parmesan cheese, scrambled eggs and cheese, tofu stir-fry, hummus with whole wheat bread or crackers, tuna salad sandwich, chili with beans but not spicy! Make sure you don’t eat too late and keep the meals before bed light, control the portions.