Did you wake up groggy and out of focus? If you woke up feeling more fatigued than before you got in bed, you probably didn’t get enough quality sleep – and what you ate last night could be the culprit.
Several research studies have suggested that nutrition plays a major role in how well you sleep at night. In a 2010 study published in the journal Sleep, researchers found that some food groups help with being well-rested. Food such as oats, walnuts, almonds, cherries, grapefruit, rice and milk can help people have better quality sleep.
Of course, there are also different kinds of food and drinks to stay away from if you want to catch some really good zzz’s. Here’s our list of food to eat and avoid to help you become well-rested at night and wake up refreshed.
The Good Stuff: Sleep Promoters
Cherries – cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the chemical that aids in controlling the body’s circadian rhythm or internal clock. In one study, participants suffering from chronic insomnia who drank tart cherry juice experienced improvements in the quality and duration of their sleep.
Bananas – when you want to have a full, relaxing sleep, eat bananas before bedtime. Bananas contain potassium and magnesium, which relax the muscles. Potassium is also great for keeping the mind sharp and the heart healthy.
Rice – jasmine rice in particular comes highly recommended as the digestive system processes it slowly. The glucose this rice contains is released gradually into the bloodstream. Just make sure you eat it four hours before you go to bed, and you’ll fall asleep more quickly.
Milk – milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in falling asleep. It’s also a precursor to serotonin, a “relaxing” neurotransmitter that shapes sleep.
Complex carbohydrates – low-sugar cereal, oatmeal, shredded wheat, quinoa, barley. These are all complex carbs, which promote sleep. Oatmeal is also a great source of melatonin.
Herbal tea – for a calm, restful sleep, choose valerian, passionflower or chamomile tea. These caffeine-free teas have a sedating effect and make you drowsy.
For a bedtime snack, the National Sleep Foundation recommends one that contains both protein and carbohydrates, as proteins are the building blocks of tryptophan and carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain. Cheese and crackers, peanut butter on wheat bread or cereal with milk will help you sleep soundly.
The Bad Stuff: Sleep Stealers
Fast food favorites – fatty, salty food such as bacon cheeseburgers are not going to help you get a good night’s sleep. Once fatty food is ingested, the stomach produces acid that can spill up into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Alcohol – the next time you’re invited for a nightcap, like wine of a particularly good vintage, decline nicely if you want to have quality sleep. It can be difficult to say no, but if you don’t want to toss and turn trying to sleep, you must. Alcohol of any kind is quick to metabolize and causes you to rouse multiple times during the night.
Caffeine – caffeine – usually in coffee, energy drinks, sodas and dark chocolate – is a stimulant and is more than likely to keep you awake at night. Oh, and chocolate also contains a stimulant called theobromine, which can contribute to sleeplessness and an increased heart rate.