Foods that Help & Harm Your Sleep

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Sleep better by changing up your food habits.

Trouble sleeping? Here’s some food you should eat and some you should avoid to sleep well.

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for our health and well-being. The food you eat, particularly before bedtime, can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. In fact, you may have already observed that you struggle to sleep after a heavy meal or when you eat too close to bedtime.

You might wonder, what is the connection between food and sleep? Well, in simplistic terms, the hormone responsible for our sleep-wake cycles is called Melatonin. It is produced by the Pineal gland which is located above the middle of your brain. 

Luckily, there are certain foods that help you calm down and control your sleep cycle which means you can sleep better if you consume these before bed.

Foods that help you sleep better

Walnuts and other nuts help you sleep better.
Nuts like walnuts can help you sleep better

A handful of nuts. One of the best ways to satisfy late night hunger pangs is by eating a selection of nuts. Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, cashews are good for you and contain sleep-inducing compounds. Ensure not to eat too many as they are high in fats, but having a few is not a bad thing. If you don’t have nuts, then sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and chickpeas are some seeds and legumes you can consider as well. They are melatonin and Vitamin B6 rich, allowing you to get a good quality sleep and fall asleep fast.

Drink some warm milk. Warm milk is comforting, has the childhood nostalgia factor and most importantly contains melatonin, vitamin D and calcium which promote better sleep and give your body rest. If due to dietary restrictions or preferences milk isn’t an option, almond or soy milk does the same job. Low-fat yogurt is another option too, in case you want to switch it up a bit. A note of caution; don’t go for high-fat milk and don’t put cereal in it, as the high fat content leads to your body working extra at night in order to digest it with sugar causing extra release of adrenaline, which might keep you up at night.

A cup of tea will help you fall asleep faster.
A lovely cup of tea is great before bed

A cup of herbal tea. Herbal teas are a good way of improving your sleep and preparing your body and mind to switch off for the day. Chamomile, passion fruit or even your everyday tea is believed to be a natural cure against insomnia and contain minerals and compounds that are essential to a good night’s sleep. So in case you have that warm milk all ready to go, you could switch it up and make some tea! Just stay away from green tea at night, as it contains caffeine which harms your sleep. We shall cover that in depth, ahead. 

Sweet potato. An underrated vegetable that can help your sleep. Just don’t fry it! It is rich in Vitamin B6, potassium and melatonin, so it gives your mood a boost, relaxes your muscles and prepares your body to sleep. Moreover, it is rich in fiber, so it’ll keep you full through the night!

Grilled meats have Vitamin D and improve sleep.
Grilled chicken or turkey help create restful sleep

Grilled chicken and fish. Poultry such as chicken and turkey contain an amino acid called Tryptophan, which helps produce melatonin, which is a hormone that creates restful sleep. Fatty fish such as salmon, halibut and shrimp are also food that help you sleep better as they are a good source of Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids which help regulate Serotonin in our body, a neurotransmitter that is essential for production of melatonin. If you want to eat meat for dinner without compromising a good night’s sleep, go for these. 

Fruits with high magnesium content. Kiwis, bananas and avocados are fruits that are magnesium rich. Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a natural relaxant and decreases the amount of adrenaline in our body, allowing us to feel more restful and drowsy. Kiwis are rich in other sleep promoting compounds such as potassium, folate, calcium. Bananas and avocados also contain Tryptophan and the latter is Vitamin B6 rich, which helps create melatonin helping us fall asleep faster. 

What are some of the foods that must be avoided at night?

Pasta is definitely something to avoid late at night, in order to sleep well.
Pasta will keep your body awake at night

Pizza & pasta. We love Italian food, we do. But it isn’t ideal food to eat before going to bed, or as a late night dinner. Both foods are extremely carbohydrates and fat heavy. This means your body needs more time to digest which will keep your body working for longer, rather than relaxing. Moreover, the tomato sauce in pizza and pasta is highly acidic, and can trigger acid-reflux when eaten close to bedtime. That can cause discomfort and you’ll wake up tired in the morning.

Stay away from caffeine. Avoid caffeine rich drinks like coffee and green tea when the sun sets and bedtime gets closer. Caffeine consumption late at night, stimulates your entire body and nervous system and brings up your heart rate. This will stop you from relaxing, it’ll take hours to wear off and worsens sleep quality. Alcohol has the same effect on your body and wine, beer and other hard liquors should be avoided as well.

Chocolate is tasty, but skip it at night for better sleep.

No chocolate indulgence. Chocolates must be avoided at night for the sake of better sleep. Chocolate also contains caffeine and sugar. This leads to you staying more active, aroused and unable to shut down, relax and reach phases of deep sleep. Cut back on the chocolate at night and it will have you fall asleep faster. The same goes for other sugar rich food like kulfi and ice cream.

Spice is not very nice. Spicy foods like hot peppers are good for you and can improve metabolism, but avoid sriracha, tabasco and hot peppers at night. Firstly, hot peppers and spicy food contain many antioxidants that can behave as wake up calls for your body. Moreover, they contain a compound called capsaicin which can trigger heartburn and raise your body’s core temperature. When you fall asleep, your body’s core temperature goes down which can cause discomfort and lead to you not sleeping well. 

Cut fries at night to sleep better.
French fries = Not a night snack

French fries and other fried food. They are really tasty, but aren’t good for you at night. Fries are greasy and high in fat, so avoid them at night. High fat content in fried food means your body works on overdrive to digest then and remains active through the night, which means you can’t sleep well at night. They can also cause acid reflux or heartburn, which inhibits good sleep.

There are many other foods that can help and harm your sleep patterns, what’s important is you watch your eating habits and do your best to be healthy. There are many things you can do to sleep better, including practicing mindful eating to enjoy your food and feel good while you eat it, or even try our mindful chai guided audio.

If you’re looking to improve your sleep, give meditation for sleep a try.
Evolve’s range of guided audios are designed specially to help you improve your sleep. The Evolve app is now live globally on Android & Apple, click here to try for free!