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Food that help you sleep (and some that keep you up)

Nighttime food choices can affect how quickly you

Nighttime food choices can affect how quickly you fall asleep. Credit: Fotolia

Lots of people love to grab a snack before going to sleep. But what you choose to eat could determine whether or not you fall asleep right away.

“If you’re eating just to eat — or to cure boredom or make yourself feel better — you might want to think twice before indulging,” said Patricia Salzer, a registered dietitian and workplace wellness consultant at Univera Healthcare.

Here’s what Salzer advised when it comes to eating before bedtime.

Foods that keep you awake

  • Large portions and high-fat foods — such as French fries — interfere with falling asleep.
  • Spicy foods slow down digestion.
  • Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and can have a relaxing effect at first, but then cause you to wake up because it interferes with deep sleep and interrupts the sleep cycle.
  • Caffeine — found in coffee, tea and chocolate — takes several hours for its stimulant powers to wear off. Even decaf has some caffeine.
  • High-sugar foods and overeating also can interfere with your ability to sleep.

“Try incorporating foods that help boost your levels of serotonin, the calming and ‘feel good’ hormone,” Salzer said. “You should consider nuts, seeds or lean protein including chicken, fish or low-fat cheese.”

Foods that help you sleep

Choose a small snack with protein and carbohydrates — these types of foods either contain or help create an amino acid called tryptophan that can cause sleepiness. Excellent protein and carbohydrate combinations include whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, peanut butter on whole-grain toast, low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers, and one ounce of turkey or chicken on a slice of whole-grain bread.

“Bananas and other foods high in potassium help you to stay asleep,” Salzer said. “Foods high in calcium also contain certain sleep-causing hormones, such as tryptophan and melatonin.” She recommends a container of low-fat yogurt, a cup of low-fat milk or a slice of low-fat cheese, such as mozzarella.

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