I usually don’t have trouble falling asleep. In most cases, I fall asleep the moment I put my head on the pillow. But it does happen to the best of us. No matter how hard you try, sometimes you just cannot fall asleep.
I know that there are multiple factors that can affect your sleep habits. For example, sometimes stress is just too much to handle. Hundreds of questions are resting on your shoulders. Why did I tell him/her that? Why did I do that? Should I call him/her and apologize? Should I wait until tomorrow and then call? And so on. But one thing many of us underestimate is food. As in, foods that help us sleep better.
From my experience, I can tell you for sure that nothing is more annoying than insomnia (I’m sure many of you will agree with that). The good news is that you can change most of the factors that can deprive you of sleep. For example, factors like room temperature and brightness are easy to handle. And while you can’t do anything about the outside noise, you can do something about your food habits.
Food is an often overlooked factor for a good night’s sleep, but no more. Here are some foods that are essential for good sleep. I’ll give you a list of foods you need to avoid, and another one with foods that will actually help you sleep better.
Foods to avoid before going to bed
Now, in any other situation, chicken would be great. After all, chicken is one of the best sources of protein. And anyone who has read at least one article about losing weight/eating healthy/building muscle knows that protein is essential.
Protein is the building block of your muscles, but you can’t eat protein-rich foods just before going to bed. Why? Because protein slows down digestion, and your body needs to work hard to digest it. A slice of chicken will actually make it difficult for you to fall asleep. You should not consume protein two hours or less before going to bed.
Now, this is a habit many of us have, and I’ve fallen victim to it from time to time. What happens? I’m a bit hungry in the evening, and since I can’t fall asleep hungry, I eat some chocolate. But then I have an even bigger problem. Before eating the chocolate, I was tired and wanted to go to bed. Afterward, I feel like I can go another round in the gym.
The reason is simple: chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains a lot of caffeine (it goes without saying that coffee is also forbidden in the evening). In addition to caffeine, chocolate contains theobromine, another ingredient that will stimulate your nervous system. As a result, you’ll get an increased heart rate and you won’t be able to fall asleep. And that’s not factoring in that you’ll have a lot more energy, and you can’t fall asleep while high on energy.
Note that if you need to study for long hours at night, chocolate is a much better option than coffee.
When I was in high school, my friends and I had this habit of grabbing a juicy hamburger or cheeseburger late in the evening, just before going home. You know, that cheeseburger you grab after partying for a few hours.
Yes, we felt exhausted after partying. And yes, we wanted a juicy burger. But little did we know that fatty foods are a disaster for your sleep habits (and bacon cheeseburgers even more so!). Now that is one large amount of fat. And for those of you who don’t know, fat stimulates production of stomach acid. As a result, you get heartburn, which translates to inflammation, and that means insomnia. So, the best thing to do is skip the burger for dinner.
Here is another group of foods that should be forbidden for dinner. Now, there are people who love spicy food, and spicy food can be healthy. Did you know that jalapenos and chili peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C?
However, if you love spicy food, please try to consume it earlier in the day. As with fatty food, spicy food can cause heartburn, which means you’ll wake up during the night. And let’s not forget: some people need to use the toilet often after eating spicy food.
Foods to eat before going to bed
Now, if you remember, when we talked about chicken, I told you it’s not a good idea to consume protein-rich foods in the evening. However, turkey is an exception. And there is a reason why.
It all comes down to tryptophan, an amino acid that helps in the synthesis of proteins. In addition, this amino acid improves the quality of your sleep, as well as the rhythm of your sleep. So, grab a piece of turkey some two hours before going to bed. If you need any proof, just remember what happens after the Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone needs a nap!
I’m sure that when you were a little child, your mother or grandmother gave you a glass of milk before going to bed. I don’t know if they knew the science behind that, but one thing is certain: milk does improve your sleep.
Just like turkey, milk contains tryptophan. Many people rightly call tryptophan “the sleep amino acid.” Now, the only thing that I would recommend is that you grab a glass of organic, hormone-free milk. You don’t want to do more harm than good with a glass of milk that’s rich in additives.
Bananas are actually a double-edged sword. For one thing, they will boost your energy levels, and I’m not a fan of consuming sugary foods in the evening. I like to get my fruits in the morning and afternoon.
However, bananas are rich in two of the best minerals for sleep quality: calcium and magnesium. Both minerals help your body repair and relax your muscles. A banana before going to bed will make sure you have a peaceful night and sleep. And in the morning, you’ll wake up relaxed. Is there a better feeling than that?
When you feel a little hungry, but you don’t want to grab a whole meal, grains are the best option. Crackers or pasta, in combination with eggs or low-fat dairy, is the best pre-sleep snack. Grains are rich in carbs, but combine them with some tryptophan-rich foods, and you have the perfect combination.
If you’ve ever taken pills for a better sleep, you know they contain melatonin, the chemical that helps our body regulate our internal clock. And you’ll have a hard time finding it in natural foods.
Luckily, cherries are one of the few natural foods that contain this chemical. Cherries are great any time of the day, but in the evening, they provide you with a better quality snooze. Even drinking cherry juice can help.
Leafy greens and avocado
Let’s go back to those magnesium-rich foods, which also include leafy greens and avocado. There’s a reason why a Caesar salad is one of the best dinner options (especially if you make it with turkey, not chicken). So, get your magnesium dosage about one hour before going to bed, and you’ll see the results in the morning!