Sleep is a vital process that the body needs in order to repair and recharge after a long day and prepare for the next. It’s not just as simple as “falling” asleep, rather it’s initiated through a complex cascade of chemical messengers which ultimately stimulate the release of melatonin, known as the “sleep hormone” from the pineal gland in the brain. Thanks to our understanding of these intricate processes, there are things we can do at home that may encourage this sleeping process. We’ve been doing our research, so let’s highlight some foods that may just help you get to sleep faster and sleep better; and also those that will prevent that all important sleep!
Cherries: Not only are cherries super healthy and provide our bodies with important minerals and vitamins, they also act as a natural sleep inducer. These super fruits contain melatonin which is the body’s chemical messenger released when the brain dictates that it is time to sleep. Cherries can help you sleep longer and better, thus improving your overall sleep quality.
Bananas: One of the most well-known natural sleep aids is the Banana. Containing tryptophan, this is the precursor chemical messenger to the two main sleep hormones melatonin and serotonin. In addition to this, bananas are packed with muscle relaxants, potassium, and magnesium. The latter has also been studied further, as is thought to stimulate a better quality of sleep and has the potential to make getting out of bed a lot easier too!
Spinach: Raw Spinach has always been known as one of the top superfoods, and just when you thought this food couldn’t get any better, turns out it is a natural sleep aid as well! Within its artillery, it has the likes of magnesium, vitamins C & B6, and folate which are important links within the chemical release that help us drift off after a tiring day.
Jasmine rice: Some studies have shown that consuming a high carb food item, such as Jasmine rice, a few hours before bed may decrease the time taken to fall asleep. The rice itself will be digested slowly and as a result, the glucose levels will gradually rise in the bloodstream. It has been suggested that this effect may increase the production of the sleep signaling chemical tryptophan.
Turkey: An excellent source of the sleep-inducing amino acid Tryptophan. Turkey has been studied for this reason, and some studies have shown that eating some turkey before bed can help you get that shut-eye a lot quicker.
Coffee: Almost goes without saying doesn’t it? Yet some people do drink coffee before bed and can’t fathom why they are awake at 3 am! Coffee heavily stimulates the central nervous system, depending on your sensitivity, the stimulating effect of coffee can last up to 14 hours. As you can imagine, with your nervous system working overtime, there is going to be no melatonin in sight and therefore no sleep anytime soon for you.
Chocolate: Not only can chocolate bad for the waistline when eaten in excess, this tempting treat also contains caffeine, which as mentioned above, stimulates the mind and prevents drowsiness and ultimately, sleep! Different types of chocolate contain varying amounts of caffeine, so if you are a chocoholic – make sure you research your chocolate before you splurge at bedtime.
Wine: Despite seeing in movies (and sometimes in real life!) the classic scene of merrily drunk individuals having a few glasses, falling asleep rapidly, and snoring away, turns out alcohol is actually bad for your sleep! Studies have shown that by drinking alcohol, such as wine, your body is prevented from entering the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle and as a result dramatically reduces the quality of sleep. The result? The person has a disturbed sleep and not only has to deal with their hangover the next day but also reduced energy from their insufficient sleep.
Fast food: Another rather obvious one to avoid before bed is fast-food. With the enormous greasy, fat content this category of foods contains, this acts as a stimulant for the production of stomach acid. If this is your food of choice right before bed, we’ve got some bad news for you. That increased production of acid is going to find its way into your esophagus resulting in one nasty night of heartburn! The chances of you falling to sleep whilst dealing with hell’s fire in your throat are slim-to-none. Fast food is an all-around bad choice for not only your waistline but your overall health and sleep quality.
Spicy foods: We all love a bit of spice in our lives, however, your body doesn’t appreciate it when it comes to bedtime. Eating spicy food like chili peppers contain capsaicin, which is a very active ingredient that increases the body’s core temperature. Naturally, when we sleep, our core temperature decreases; therefore this sudden increase in temperature reduces the production of sleep-inducing chemicals needed to get to sleep.