To slumber well, avoid some foods and increase your intake of others. Keep the list handy for evening eating
BY LISSA COFFEY
Editor’s note: Savvy mattress retailers want to do everything they can to help their customers sleep better, including offering them sound advice and tips. Feel free to share this great guidance from Better Sleep Council spokeswoman Lissa Coffey with your shoppers (with credit given, of course).
Most of the time when we think of a diet, we think of the foods we might eat—or not eat—that will help us lose weight. But there are all kinds of diets, and we can go on a particular diet for many reasons. The best reason to go on any diet is to improve our health. And what better way is there to improve our health than to improve our sleep?
Research shows that a good night’s sleep—both in quantity and quality—helps boost our memory, curb inflammation, sharpen attention, enhance athletic performance and even make us live longer. There are many things that we can do to achieve the goal of sleeping well. A regular bedtime and waking time, a quality mattress and a restful sleep environment are all important.
Because the foods we eat influence our sleep, the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, has come up with a list of foods to avoid (the “no” list) and foods to favor (the “yes” list) that make up the “sweet sleep” diet.
The “no” list
O Alcohol: A cocktail before bed may help you fall asleep more quickly, but it disrupts sleep later in the night. Alcohol interrupts our REM sleep—the type of sleep important for concentration, memory and motor skills.
O Beans: Beans can be difficult to digest and can cause gas, making it difficult to sleep well.
O Celery, cucumber and watermelon: Foods with a high water content act as a natural diuretic. When we have to get up during the night to go to the bathroom, we have a harder time sleeping.
O Cruciferous veggies: While broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are super healthy, their high fiber content makes these vegetables harder to digest. They also contain an indigestible sugar that causes gas. While our digestive system is working overtime, it’s difficult for us to sleep soundly.
O Pizza and fried foods: Items that are high in fat, such as pizza and fried foods, take longer to digest. This can cause discomfort that interferes with our sleep cycle.
O Red meat: Meats that are high in protein and fat are slow to digest. If you choose to eat red meat, consume it for lunch rather than for dinner. A body that is busy digesting can’t settle into slumber.
O Soda and energy drinks: Caffeine is a stimulant. We know that caffeine is present in cola drinks, but check the labels on other sodas, as well. Caffeine often is added to root beer, lemon-lime soda and, of course, energy drinks.
O Sub sandwiches: These big sandwiches are a meal, not a snack. It is best to leave at least three hours between dinner and bedtime to properly digest so that you’re not uncomfortable with a full stomach.
O Sweets: When we eat candy or other sugary treats late at night, our blood sugar fluctuations—the spikes and drops that come with sugar consumption—make it difficult for us to stay asleep. Also, dark chocolate is indeed heart healthy, but best not to eat it before bed: It contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of hot chocolate or tea.
O Tacos: Tacos and other spicy foods can cause heartburn, which leads to restlessness when you’re trying to get to sleep.
O Tomatoes: Tomatoes are high in tyramine, which is an amino acid that triggers norepinephrine, a stimulant that boosts brain activity and delays sleep.
The “yes” list
O Almonds: Almonds are high in magnesium, a mineral that is beneficial for quality sleep.
O Cereal: As long as you have only a small amount, the carb-and-calcium combo in cereal is helpful when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
O Cheese and crackers: The calcium in cheese helps the brain use tryptophan to make melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleeping and waking cycles. Calcium also helps regulate muscle movements, so we relax. Enjoy in moderation—just a few!
O Chamomile tea: Chamomile increases glycine, which helps relax nerves and muscles.
O Cherry juice: Cherries naturally boost our melatonin levels, ensuring a great night’s sleep.
O Hummus: Hummus is made of chickpeas, which are a great source of tryptophan. Tryptophan is the amino acid that helps us produce both serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin helps us to be in a good mood; melatonin regulates our body clock.
O Jasmine rice: Jasmine rice has a high glycemic index, so it helps you fall asleep faster than other types of rice.
O Kale: A trendy “super” food, kale—as well as other dark greens like spinach and mustard greens—is high in calcium, making it a great snack for sleep.
O Lettuce: Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties. Try placing three or four large lettuce leaves in 1 cup of room temperature or warm water for 15 minutes. Remove the leaves, add a sprig of mint or a squeeze of lemon for flavor, and sip before bed.
O Passion fruit tea: Passion fruit tea is herbal, so there’s no caffeine, plus it contains harman alkaloids that soothe the nervous system.
O Pistachios: Pistachios are high in vitamin B6, which helps the body make melatonin and serotonin. Other foods that are high in B6 include tuna, salmon and halibut.
O Walnuts: Walnuts are super high in the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan helps the body make both serotonin and melatonin. O
Lissa Coffey is a relationship expert, author and broadcast journalist. She writes for eight websites, including Coffeytalk.com, Whatsyourdosha.com and the Better Sleep Council’s site, Bettersleep.org. A BSC spokeswoman, she stars in several videos that offer sleep and mattress-shopping tips for consumers.