Alright, let’s start this post off with thinking about something amazing…turkey dinner!! Think about the last time you had a turkey dinner. You loaded up your plate, enjoyed every last bite, and then…..felt like you were going to fall asleep!!!
What you eat affects how you sleep. Often people think about reducing caffeine later in the evening to encourage better sleep but rarely do we plan our dinner or night time snack thinking that it is going to benefit our sleep. I want to touch a little bit about how the foods that you choose throughout the day, specifically dinner and bedtime snack, can impact your families sleep.
Food can fit into two categories:
Sleepers – These are foods that contribute to restful sleep by calming the brain.These foods contain tryptophan which is an amino acid that is used by your body to create sleep hormones.
Wakers – These are foods that contribute to restless sleep and keeping you away by exciting the brain.They contain Tyrosine which is an amino acid that blocks tryptophan from being absorbed therefore making you more awake.
Many foods contain a combination of both tryptophan and tyrosine and it can often be difficult to find a good pairing to help encourage sleep. There is always a lot of more in depth research that can be discussed but here I am just going to give some tips using the research I have done on how to use foods to help encourage sleep at night! These tips can be used for all ages once your little one has started solids and can also work for adults!!
- Pair high carbohydrate foods with proteins. The carbohydrates help the body to absorb the tryptophan which therefore helps you sleep. A high protein diet with low/medium carbs is better to eat in the morning or for an early snack as this will help keep you awake because many protein products also contain tyrosine.
Potatoes (or other carb source) with meat for dinner.Vegetables too of course but we want the potatoes (carb) to work with the meat (tryptophan) to help calm the body.
Peanut butter on bread, cheese on crackers and Greek yogurt and granola for bedtime snack.
** Note that not pairing a high carbohydrate with a protein can lead to increased energy as Tyrosine is now the dominant amino acid.
- Eat B3 Vitamin (Niacin amino acid). B3 vitamin is actually a common ingredient in herbal sleep aids because it is known to extend parts of your sleep cycle and limits the number of times you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. In a study it showed that foods high in these acids helped to enhance sleep because they increase the brain’s secretion of sleep hormones!
- Avoid anti-sleep foods or foods that are irritating or hard to digest for dinner and nighttime snacks.
Ice Cream – its fat content can slow down digestion making it uncomfortable for you to sleep.
Citrus Drinks – These beverages can irritate the esophagus (throat) and cause inflammation.
Mashed Potatoes – Can cause discomfort in individuals with lactose intolerance
Spicy Foods – Can irritate lower part of esophagus.
Legumes – Can produce gas and inflammation especially young children or individuals who are not used to eating vegetables regularly as they will not have the enzymes needed to digest them.
Chocolate Brownies – These contain caffeine from the chocolate and can also cause the lower part of your esophagus to relax which leads to acid reflux.
Raw Onions – Have effects on your stomach and leave a strong after taste that can be distracting.
Fried Foods – Can cause stomach discomfort.
Broccoli and Cabbage – Cause plenty of gas in intestinal tract because of their fiber and nutrient content.
Sugarless Gum – Produces gas
Popcorn – MOVIE NIGHT!!!Unfortunately popcorn is just puffed corn kernels and so is very common in producing inflammation and gas in the intestines.
** I want to stress that many of these foods DO HAVE nutritional properties and so should not be eliminated from your diet. It is just recommended that these types of foods be eaten earlier in the day so that they do not negatively impact your families sleep for the reasons above.
Every individual is unique! If the foods listed above do not cause any symptoms for you then that is great and you should continue eating them whenever you like. This list is just to bring attention to some foods that may cause discomforts during sleeping if you are trying to figure out sleep disturbances for yourself or your children. Often children don’t know why their “stomach” hurts but it may have something to do with what they had for dinner.
I hope that the above tips can help you and your family find the perfect dinner meals and bedtime snacks to keep sleep on track!! Who doesn’t love to eat and now you can eat to sleep!!