We have been hearing for years that if you struggle to sleep at night, you should avoid eating or drinking right before bed.
However, there are a lot of people who have found that a bedtime snack or a warm drink right before retiring is just the thing
to send them off to dreamland. Is it a contradiction? Not necessarily, and here’s why…
There is a ton of research out there that extolls the virtues of making sure not to eat or drink anything within 3 hours of going to bed. For the most part, the results of improved sleep are not necessarily because of avoiding food and drink. They are generally because of avoiding other problems that tag along with food and drink.
It’s not food’s fault you can’t sleep, it is generally portion or type that is to blame. Below, we look at a handful of foods that are not only filled with nutrients that promote better sleep, but are considered okay to have right before bed…just don’t overdo it. More than 8 ounces- total- of anything before bed is a recipe for sleep trouble.
Then, we’ll look at the ones you want to avoid before bed (or even entirely) because of the problems associated with sleep.
Hot oatmeal– studies suggest that a small, warm dose of a carbohydrate snack before bed helps aid not only is falling asleep but also staying asleep. This can be oatmeal, warmed up Grape Nuts or Shredded Wheat, or even a small scoop of granola heated up in a bit of milk.
Bananas- while you’re at it, toss a bit of sliced banana in the hot cereal mix. The potassium in bananas right before bed soothes angry nerves in the muscles of the legs, reducing the chances of being woken in the night due to leg cramps.
Chickpeas- The Vitamin B6 in this little veggie during the day helps in the production of serotonin. At night, it promotes the body’s natural release of melatonin, which is the compound that makes a person feel sleepy.
Jasmine tea with chamomile- not only do these herbs have wonderful compounds in them that make the body feel sleepy, but even just the smell of them helps to promote the body to relax and prepare for rest. For people who can’t drink anything before bed due to bladder issues, aromatherapy including these herbs in essential oil form are very helpful.
Cherry juice- while not necessarily acting as a sleep aid per se, this fruit has been shown to promote staying asleep. For frequent wakers, this is helpful-but only the tart cherry variety. It is used by naturopaths to aid in sleep mostly because of its restorative powers with respect to muscle tissue.
Water- dehydration is frequently the culprit in frequent waking. Not getting enough water to drink during the day makes the body much less likely to make use of the nutrients you spent so much time consuming earlier in the day. For the many systems in the body to even absorb those vitamins and nutrients, they have to have adequate water to even take them in.
Soda…EVER. You might be thinking that because you have a caffeine-free version of a soda it solves the nighttime problem. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The excess sodium in pop interferes with cells’ ability to balance potassium in the bloodstream. This imbalance, while potentially unnoticeable during the day, can spell can’t stay asleep” disaster all night. It also has been shown to increase blood pressure, which is a problem for insomniacs generally, anyway.
Spicy food- this just causes stomach upset, ‘power surges’ or mini-hot flashes, and stink to emit from your skin. Spicy food also contributes to dehydration as there is generally a lot of salt in many spicy dishes, especially if the spice used is a manufactured, packaged variety.
Dairy- other than a bit of yogurt with the granola or a quarter cup of milk with the hot oatmeal, you want to completely avoid large amounts (anything over 8 ounces) of dairy. Many people like a large glass of warm milk before bed or even a dish of ice cream. This just causes the stomach to be upset. Dairy should be limited in the hours preceding sleep.
Deli meats- the tyramine in deli meats and aged cheeses spell disaster for a weary brain that just wants to rest. Tyramine is the product of a natural process of tyrosine breaking down in food as it ages. Since deli meat is generally a preserved version of pork, beef, and chicken, it is definitely aged. Tyramine acts as a bit of a stimulant and has even been linked to migraine as a major trigger. It’s also going to just make you thirsty at night, a cause of frequent waking.
Spaghetti or pizza sauce- it doesn’t even have to be all that spicy to wind up with its own place on this list. Consuming this food within 6 hours of bedtime without adequate water consumption will cause the body to dehydrate. Even if you eat no meat on your pizza or just have breadsticks and sauce…the seasoning and processing this food undergoes is wrought with potential for reflux and dehydration.
So there you have it…clearing up the myths about eating (or not) before bed time and how to improve your chances of falling and staying asleep.
To really be able to sleep good, check out our #1 method to eliminate insomnia here…
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