(BlackDoctor.org) — If you could pick the right foods to help you get the best sleep possible, wouldn’t you? And if you knew which foods would hinder your restful slumber, wouldn’t you avoid them? Now’s your chance to learn which foods to eat, and which to steer clear of for a good night’s sleep.
What you eat affects how you sleep. One of the keys to a restful night’s sleep is to get your brain calmed rather than revved up. Some foods contribute to restful sleep; other foods keep you awake. We call them sleepers and wakers. Sleepers are tryptophan-containing foods, because tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that slows down nerve traffic so your brain isn’t so busy. Wakers are foods that stimulate neurochemicals that perk up the brain.
Following are 5 foods you can munch on to help you drift off to dreamland:
1. Cherries. Fresh and dried cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep. Researchers who tested tart cherries and found high levels of melatonin recommend eating them an hour before bedtime or before a trip when you want to sleep on the plane.
2. Bananas. Potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.
3. Toast. Carbohydrate-rich foods trigger insulin production, which induces sleep by speeding up the release of tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals that relax you and send you to sleep. So a few other perfect late night snacks to get you snoozing might include a bowl of cereal and milk, yogurt and crackers, or bread and cheese.
4. Oatmeal. Like toast, a bowl of oatmeal triggers a rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin production and the release of sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Oats are also rich in melatonin, which many people take as a sleep aid..
5. Warm milk. We’ve all heard of warm milk’s magical ability to send us off to dreamland. Do you know why it’s true? Dairy foods contain tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other tryptophan-containing foods include poultry, bananas, oats, and honey. It’s also high in calcium, which promotes sleep.
Foods That Keep You Awake
Caffeine-containing foods top the list of foods that wake you up.
- As a stimulant, caffeine speeds up the action of not only the nervous system, but of other major body systems, too. Within fifteen minutes of downing a cup of coffee, the level of adrenaline in your blood rises, which triggers an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, urinary output, and production of stomach acids. Basically, caffeine’s effects are the reverse of what you want to happen as you go to sleep.
- Caffeine also prompts adrenal hormones to release sugar stored in the liver, which stimulates sugar cravings to replenish the stores. Caffeine heightens the roller coaster effect of blood sugar swings, producing a quick high after a morning cup of coffee, followed by a downturn in the afternoon.
- Caffeine’s effects in the body are sort of like the law of gravity: what goes up must come down. The morning jolt is often followed by afternoon doldrums. Caffeine also makes it difficult to sleep well.
Know your caffeine quota. Some persons are more caffeine-sensitive than others. Many adults can take up to 250 milligrams of caffeine a day (the average amount in 21/2 cups of coffee) and experience no sleep problems. Others get jitters after one cola.
Time your caffeine boost. For most people, the effects of caffeine wear off within six hours, so coffee in the morning will usually not interfere with sleep in the evening. Caffeine-containing beverages at lunch may not affect your sleep, but coffee, tea, or cola in the evening is likely to keep you awake.