Diet and Health: Getting a Good Night's Rest
Having trouble sleeping? Waking up feeling tired even after a "good night's sleep"? Before you head to the drugstore, you may consider changing your diet.
Indeed, beyond benefiting our bodies, through weight management and general health improvement, following a healthy diet can also help to improve the quality and duration of your sleep. That is because certain foods are higher in the vitamins and minerals necessary to naturally cue our bodies into becoming more relaxed and better able to go to sleep.
How Does Food Nutrition Affect Sleep?
The foods we eat affect our bodies in a number of complex ways. With respect to sleeping, foods that are particularly effective in promoting healthy sleep are those that are rich in tryptophan, chlorophyll, and complex carbohydrates.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is given to the body exclusively through the foods we eat. Once your brain has processed tryptophan, it is turned into serotonin, a hormone that stimulates feelings of calm and relaxation. In fact, without sufficient amounts of serotonin, your body will be hard pressed to make you feel adequately sleepy in order to rest properly. Of course, your body will not be able to reach necessary levels of serotonin without enough tryptophan.
Carbohydrates, for their part, are good at diverting our brain's attention from other amino acids, due to the insulin they release. This makes eating carbs along with tryptophan particularly effective, as there are no other amino acids competing with the tryptophan to gain access to the brain.
Finally, chlorophyll-rich foods are said to contain an opium-related substance along with traces of the anticramping agent hyoscyarnin, making them particularly effective in promoting healthy sleeping patterns.
Over time, sleep deprivation can lead to insomnia and/or sleep disorders, so it's important to remedy the problem before it gets worse.
Foods That Can Help You Sleep
In order to improve your quality of sleep, try incorporating these tryptophan-rich foods into your daily diet. In small amounts, they can also make good bed-time snacks.
- milk (for those tolerant to dairy)
- egg whites
- soy milk
Other foods that can help make you slumber more soundly include:
- fruits (especially berries)
- leafy green vegetables
- certain herbs, particularly dill and basil
- whole grains, including whole wheat, brown rice, and oats
- sunflower seeds
Foods to Avoid
Just as there are foods that can promote healthy sleep, there are others that can hinder it. In fact, some can even make proper sleep impossible.
For a good night's sleep, avoid the following foods:
- anything containing caffeine (coffee, teas, chocolate, soda, certain prescription medications)
- spicy and fatty foods
- refined carbohydrates
- sugar as well as foods high in sugar
- monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- cigarettes and tobacco
In addition, it is a good idea to keep in mind that beyond the types of foods we eat, the amount we consume can also influence our sleep. Eating too much or too heavy of a meal can interrupt or prevent us from sleeping, due to indigestion or other discomforts.
Vitamins and Supplements for Sleep
If you find that getting the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals in your daily diet is not realistic, it is also possible to obtain them through supplements.
Some vitamin supplements that may improve sleep include:
- B-vitamins (particularly B6 and B12)
Of course, you should always be sure to talk to your health care provider before taking any new medications or supplements.
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