Your diet can affect your ability to fall sleep as well as your ability to sleep soundly. If you find it hard to fall asleep, these foods may be interfering with your sleep.
Foods to avoid before bed
- Chocolate: Chocolate contains a relatively high level of caffeine, which can prevent you from falling asleep.
- Celery: Because of its high water content, celery is considered a natural diuretic. Eating it at nighttime may mean having to make a few trips to the bathroom before you can rest comfortably in bed.
- Chili peppers: These spicy foods can cause heartburn, leading you to toss and turn.
- Grapefruit: Eating this fruit before bedtime can cause heartburn, making it difficult to become comfortable enough to sleep.
- Ham: Fatty foods can disrupt your circadian rhythm--your physical, mental and behavioral cycles that correspond with light and dark--and ham is one of the worst culprits.
- Cauliflower: Although a healthy food choice, cauliflower is slow to digest; this can mean eating it at bedtime may keep you up longer than you'd like.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain tyramine, which can increase brain activity. This can be a good thing if you're studying for a test, but if your brain is too active at bedtime, you may find it difficult to fall sleep.
Foods to try as bedtime snacks
While some foods may hamper your ability to sleep, some enhance it. If getting to sleep is a struggle for you, try eating these foods in the evening.
- Walnuts: Not only do walnuts contain tryptophan-- an amino acid which helps your body produce calm-inducing serotonin (a brain chemical that can influence bodily functions including sleep and memory), they contain their own supply of melatonin - a hormone that helps us adjust our body clocks - as well.
- Bananas: Bananas are full of magnesium and potassium. These minerals help your muscles relax and can ease some of the tension that may be keeping you up at night.
- Honey: Honey contains glucose, which can tell your brain to stop producing orexin--a chemical that increases mental alertness.
- Yogurt: Yogurt may be especially good at helping you rest well because it has both tryptophan and calcium, which helps your body produce melatonin.
- Eggs: In addition to containing tryptophan, eggs contain insulin, which can help transport tryptophan to the brain.
- Cherries or cherry juice: Researchers found that when individuals who had trouble sleeping drank cherry juice twice a day for two weeks, they slept about 85 minutes longer every night.
Other ways to sleep soundly
While your diet can affect your ability to sleep, it is far from the only factor that contributes to your nightly health. If you have tried changing your diet and you still can't sleep, you may want to try one of the following suggestions.
- Make sleeping routine: Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. The Mayo Clinic suggests that keeping the same sleep schedule--even on holidays--can help you sleep better.
- Work out: Researchers from the School of Medicine at Northwestern University found that individuals who exercised for 30 minutes over 16 weeks slept 45 minutes longer than they had before.