A good quality sleep is essential for our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Usually, for adults and elderly, 7-8 hours of good quality sleep is crucial. There are many who fall asleep the moment they hit the bed. But there are many who simply struggle to sleep properly. The quality of our sleep depends on several factors, including the lifestyle. Environment and foods we eat. And in this post, we are going to learn about best and worst foods for sleep.
We will also learn about why sleeping is essential, what are the factors that affects the quality of sleep, and obviously about good and bad foods for sleep.
According to NHI (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute), Good quality sleep is essential for our brain to function correctly. Sleep not only affects the brain function, but it also affects our physical health. Sleep deficiency may cause diseases like obesity, diabetes and stress.
Did you know that, even when you are sleeping, your body has to work and support healthy brain functions? Sound sleep of 7-8 hours (for adults and elderly) every night, makes your brain healthy. If you are sleeping properly and adequately, you will be able to learn, retrieve and act much better, than those, who do not get sound sleep every night.
Factors that affect the sleep?
There is no argument on whether we should sleep properly, for we know, it is essential for good health and wellbeing. But why does it happen, that we get good quality sleep on certain nights and struggle to sleep on the other nights?
From our lifestyles, to the time we hit the bed, and foods we eat before bedtime, there can be many other factors that affect the sleep.
Here are the most common factors that may affect the sleep.
Stress: stress can seriously disturb your sleep. If you are stress for some reason, you may not be able to sleep properly.
Medical condition: If you are unwell, you may not be able to sleep properly. For example, if you have headache, or fever, you may not be able to sleep properly.
Foods: There are best and worst foods for sleep. There are few foods help you sleep, but there are foods and beverages that may seriously affect your sleep, coffee for example. If you drink coffee before hitting the bed, you may struggle to fall asleep.
Apart from that, you may not be able to sleep on a new bed, or while traveling but those are the once in a blue moon instances. What you should be really concerned about is the daily sleep quality.
What we are going to discuss is the foods that help or harm your sleep.
How foods affect your sleep?
Researchers from University of Pennsylvania conducted a study on the date derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Difficulties in falling asleep were associated with low levels of alpha carotene, selenium, dodecanoic acid, calcium, calories and higher levels of hexaoinic acid.
Your body produces melatonin, which is the natural sleeping pill of the body. Tryptophan is first converted to serotonin and then melatonin by the pineal gland in the brain. There are certain foods which play havoc with the natural sleeping pattern of your body, and also the hormone levels, thus causing you problem in sleeping. There are certain foods which you often tend to take at night without being aware that they can harm you.
Good beverage and foods for sleep
Good quality sound sleep is essential, but yet there are many who struggle to fall asleep. And food being one of the factors that helps you fall asleep, here’s the list of good foods for sleep.
Cherries are one of the natural sources of the melatonin which helps in improving the quality of the sleep. Those who are suffering from chronic insomnia, or sleeplessness, or have trouble falling asleep, they can try a handful of raw cherries or tarts, or even a smoothie prepared from cherries to improve the sleep.
Milk is a rich source of tryptophan, which the brain converts to serotonin. The serotonin is another chemical of the body which makes us fall asleep easily. Make it a habit to drink a glass of milk for good quality sleep.
They are rich in magnesium and potassium which are natural muscle relaxants. Bananas are good for skin, digestion, heart, and also muscle development. You must have banana daily, without miss.
Carbohydrates are very useful when you are trying to sleep. They activate melatonin in your body and help you to fall asleep. The sweet potatoes are also rich in potassium, just like the bananas. Bake the sweet potatoes, keep the skin on, add some salt and black pepper enjoy it with some bell papers and mint leaves.
Almonds are rich in calcium, just like milk, and they help in converting the tryptophan into serotonin. The almonds helps in relaxing the muscles, calm down your body and help you to sleep. Cashews, peanuts, walnuts are rich in calcium too, but the almonds are the greatest.
The green spinach are rich in folate, magnesium, calcium, minerals, vitamin B6 and C, all of which help in producing melatonin in the body. Spinach also has glutamine, an amino acid which helps in flushing out the toxins from the body. These toxins often lead to sleeplessness, but thanks to spinach, it helps in getting rid of the toxins as well.
Meat and chicken has amino acids which increases the level of tryptophan in the body, thus helping to shut the eyes at night. Pair the meat with carbohydrate rich foods like rice, and none can stop you from falling asleep.
Lemon tea has helped those who have problem in falling asleep. The warm cup of lemon tea after dinner is also helpful as it helps in better digestion. The body does not have to work hard to digest the food, and you can be at peace.
A simple soup with chicken and vegetables, coupled with a cup of rice seems to be the perfect dinner for you. The soups are nutritious, less spicy, and also easy to digest. You will not have any acidity or heartburn; you can enjoy a goodnight’s sleep without any hindrance. Avoid the soups with lentils, as they are difficult to be digested. Make the soup light with some chicken, egg, broccoli, bell papers and coriander leaves.
Beverages and foods worst for sleep
Remember heading to the coffee machine in the office when you feel asleep? Yes. Drinking coffee can help you stay awake and there are many other beverages and foods that can keep you awake. Unless you are working in the night shift, chances are you would like to get a good quality sleep and hence avoid these foods that harm your sleep. These are the worst food for sleep.
Chocolates contain theobromine which can increase heart rate and sleeplessness. It also contains caffeine which is not a favourable food for your sound sleep.
Too much spicy foods can cause heartburn, acidity, and also stomach problems. These can lead to restlessness and sleeplessness. It is better to avoid spicy foods at night especially, as the body will then not be able to digest it when you are asleep.
The citrus fruits like oranges can give you acid reflux and heartburn too, so it is better to avoid them at night. Instead, you can have an apple, the apples has carbohydrates which can help you sleep, and also fiber that can absorb the sugar more slowly.
The heavy cheese toppings, the spicy tomato sauces must be avoided if you want to enjoy good night’s sleep at night. Pizza is much more than just a dinner, it will increase the calories in your body, and a complete NO-NO for your dinner.
Your body will have to work very hard in order to break down the junk food like burgers. It is too unhealthy food, and can give you sleepless nights. Avoid the junk foods of all sorts.
Raw onions can cause gas that may affect your stomach, and heart in some cases. This can lead to acid to enter back in your throat. People who have a tendency to suffer from acidity must avoid raw onions as they can cause acid attacks. So, if you are planning to enjoy healthy meal with salads, then avoiding the raw onions is the best option.
Wine or any other hard drinks like vodka or alcohol can play havoc with your sleep patterns. Hard drinks can make you feel drowsy if you are high, but then you will end up waking multiple times at the middle of the night. Alcohol also increases snoring, so avoid it for your mate too.
Coffee is rich in caffeine which can stimulate the central nervous system of your body. Stop drinking the late night coffee, and enjoy a peaceful sleep.
Good quality sleep is crucial for our physical and mental health. And if you observe your sleep pattern, you will notice that sometime you fall asleep quite easily and at other times, you may struggle to fall asleep.
There are many factors that may affect your sleep, and the food you eat is on among them. There are good and bad foods for sleep. There are few good foods that help you fall asleep, and there are other foods which may disturb your sleep.
If you eat too much food, then your body will take up longer hours and energy to digest the heavy meals. Due to this, you will not feel comfortable and that may affect the quality of sleep. Keep your stomach a little empty at night. May be, just stop eating when you are 70-80% full, and enjoy a good night sleep.
And now when you know what food to eat and what to avoid, I am sure you are going to have a good sleep, and enjoy a healthy and happy life.
Eliana the chief editor at bodyandbeans is a professional yoga instructor and a fitness freak. She has done her master’s in history from Kolkata University. She is passionate about healthy eating and living practices.