How foods can affect sleep?

What you eat affects how you sleep. Some foods contribute to restful sleep; other foods keep you awake.

Sleepers are tryptophan-containing foods. Tryptophan (which is converted to an amino acid called L-tryptophan) is the raw material that the brain uses to build sleep-inducing substances (relaxing neurotransmitters) serotonin and melatonin.

Adequate serotonin levels promote deep, restorative sleep. Eating carbohydrates with tryptophan-containing foods makes this calming amino acid more available to the brain. A high carbohydrate meal stimulates the release of insulin, which helps clear those amino acids that compete with tryptophan from the bloodstream, allowing more of this natural sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain and manufacture sleep-inducing substances.

Eating a high-protein meal without accompanying carbohydrates may keep you awake, since protein-rich foods also contain the amino acid, tyrosine, which perks up the brain.

List os foods for a good sleep

Foods that are high in carbohydrates and calcium, and medium-to-low in protein are ideal for promoting sleep:

  • * Dairy products: cottage cheese, cheese, milk
  • * Soy products: soy milk, tofu, soybean nuts
  • * Honey
  • * Almonds
  • * Banana
  • * Seafood
  • * Meats
  • * Poultry
  • * Whole grains
  • * Beans
  • * Rice
  • * Oatmeal
  • * Hummus
  • * Lentils
  • * Turkey
  • * Hazelnuts
  • * Peanuts
  • * Avocado
  • * Eggs
  • * Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds
  • * Papaya
  • * Mushrooms
  • * Grapefruit

Sleep-inducing bedtime snacks


An all-carbohydrate snack, especially one high in junk sugars, is less likely to help you sleep. You’ll miss out on the sleep-inducing effects of tryptophan, and you may set off the roller-coaster effect of plummeting blood sugar followed by the release of stress hormones that will keep you awake.

The best bedtime snack is one that has both complex carbohydrates and protein, and some calcium. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.

Examples of sleep-inducing bedtime snacks:

  • * glass of warm milk with honey is one of the oldest and best remedies for insomnia.
  • * apple pie and ice cream
  • * whole-grain cereal with milk
  • * hazelnuts and tofu
  • * oatmeal and raisin cookies, and a glass of milk
  • * peanut butter sandwich, ground sesame seeds (It takes around one hour for the tryptophan in the foods to reach the brain, so don’t wait until right before bedtime to have your snack.)
  • * slice of whole wheat toast topped with a small slice of low-fat cheese
  • * 1/2 cup healthy cereal topped with 1/2 cup skim milk
  • * banana with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter
  • * rice cake topped with a slice turkey breast

Foods that can interfere with sleep

Some components of food, such as caffeine, artificially wake us up, so it makes no sense to have stimulant-containing foods before bed. Unfortunately, this applies not only to coffee, but to all caffeine-containing foods, and to theophylline-containing foods (like black tea) as well.

Chocolate and many soft drinks (including diet soft drinks) have substantial amounts of caffeine. An ounce of chocolate can contain 10-60 mg of caffeine, and a soft drink will usually fall into this same range. Brewed coffee can have over 100 mg per cup, depending on the grind and brewing time.

Eliminating these foods from your evening meal routine is recommended for improved sleep.

Some other foods to avoid:

  • * Alcohol and nicotine. Do not use alcohol to help you fall asleep. Although alcohol may initially induce sleep, once it wears off, the sleep tends to be fragmented. Also, limit nicotine prior to bedtime, as it is a stimulant and will keep you up.
  • * Heavy meals less than three hours prior to bed. Meals loaded with calories and fat rev up active digestion and can often leave you feeling uncomfortably full or, even worse, cause heartburn or aggravate a hiatal hernia.
  • * Fatty or spicy foods
  • * Tomatoes
  • * Potatoes
  • * Salt
  • * Onions

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