Food & Sleep

“I’m an insomniac, my mind works the night shift.”

“When it becomes really impossible to get away and sleep, then the will to live evaporates of its own accord.” ― Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night

“The creak of bed springs suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know.”

― Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers

The above quotes paint a picture of slow, yet inevitable and relentless journey into the abyss of madness. Those of us who suffer from poor sleep or insomnia, for whatever reason, know the feeling – a feeling of dread as the evening comes, transforming into horror as evening turns into night, the endless tossing and turning in bed. The hours change, silently and steadily. At 1 am, you have a bit of hope. At 2, it is almost gone. At 3, you are up and wandering around your house or flat, thinking of things to do. And at 4…

Did you know that your eating habits may have something to do with it? Food matters to sleep more than you can imagine. You may have woken up feeling terrible in the morning even though you got plenty of sleep and are wondering why. It’s probably because of that huge dinner! How much we eat matters to sleep as much as what we eat.

Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you for the rain. And for the chance to wake up in three hours and go fishing: I thank you for that now, because I won’t feel so thankful then.” – Garrison Keillor

The good news is that you don’t have to spend your whole life dreading mornings! All it takes to achieve that much-needed change is eating more of the foods we’ll educate about in this article and less unhealthy ones, which we’ll also tell you about. But before you do that…

I don’t understand people who don’t drink. They wake up and say to themselves: This is the best I’m going to feel all day.” – Frank Sinatra

Yes, this article is mostly about food and sleep, as the title suggests. But alcohol and coffee, two of sleep’s worst enemies, merit at least a mention. That nightcap might be having the opposite effect, and if you overdrank the night before, you’ll have to face the hangover stoically. No one did this to you – you did it to yourself. Find strength to face sobriety in the above quote.

5 Best Foods for Sleep

Finding energy in foods is about eating healthy ones throughout the day, and the right nutrition will guarantee you wake up feeling good and energetic every morning.

Almonds

Almonds are a good source of healthy fats and protein to balance blood sugar levels, best consumed unsalted and raw. Eating an ounce of almonds a day in the morning or afternoon can reduce your risk of developing heart disease as well as guarantee great sleep. Don’t eat them before going to bed though – they are very high in calories, so it’ll like defeating the purpose somewhat.

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt contains probiotics, which are well known for being an integral part of healthy digestion. They can also boost your energy levels and help fight a weak immune system. It’s also a great food as far as sleep is concerned.

Salmon

Salmon is high in essential omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for brain activity, energy production, and circulation as well as preventing heart disease. This is ideal on toast for lunch. It will give you energy in the day, which will slowly start to dwindle as night approaches, letting you sleep well.

Legumes

Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and other legumes preventing “crashing” later on in the day by stabilizing blood glucose levels. They are a great side dish, and lentil soup is a classic in some parts of the world.

Fruit

Fruit is the best answer to poor sleep. Almost all fruit is beneficial for sleep, especially citrus fruit like oranges, lemons and limes. Their high Vitamin C content is excellent for the immune system. Cherries are one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin, the chemical that helps balance our body’s internal clock. A study showed that drinking cherry juice led to small improvements in sleep duration and quality in adults who suffered from chronic sleeplessness. Frequent travelers always take melatonin capsules to combat jet lag. Bananas help promote sleep because they contain potassium and magnesium, both natural muscle relaxants. They’re also carbs, which will help you fall asleep easier.

Kiwi is also highly recommended. A study showed that subjects who ate two kiwifruits 1 hour before bedtime every night for a month fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. Kiwi originally comes from New Zealand and is rich in vitamins C and E, antioxidants, and carotenoids. What’s more, it helps release serotonin, a hormone implicated in sleep. More specifically, serotonin is related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and low levels of it may lead to chronic insomnia. This exotic fruit is also rich in folate, and sleeplessness is one of the health issues caused by folate deficiency. Finally, kiwi is a detox food that will not only help improve your sleep, but clean your body of toxins.

Coconuts are very healthy and recommended for improving sleep. It is best consumed in the morning or early afternoon. Coconut oil transforms into energy quickly and efficiently because it contains lots of medium chain triglycerides, which can ward off grogginess throughout your day.

Other good options are turkey and sweet potatoes, which contain sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates and potassium. Good thing Thanksgiving’s coming up for those sleep-deprived Americans!

5 Worst Foods for Sleep

Dried fruit

Only fresh fruit is good for sleep. The benefits don’t extend to dried fruit because it is very high in fiber, and eating too much of it can bother your stomach and cause you to have gas and cramps during the night, experts warn. This is also due to its low-water content. Don’t eat dried fruit in the morning either. The health benefits of this product are highly overrated. It’s terrible for the kidneys as well.

Bacon cheeseburger

Generally speaking, we could say all fast food (to the extent where you can even call it food!) belongs on this list. However, the stratospheric fat content of this particular fast food promises to destroy your sleep, and will deliver. The fat in bacon cheeseburgers stimulates the production of stomach acid, which reaches up into your esophagus, causing heartburn. This food can loosen the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus, making it even easier for acid to wreak havoc on other organs in the body. The high-fat, high-salt indulgence is a major no-no if you care about your health and your sleep.

Curry

Heavy spices like curry and many others in Indian food can keep you up at night. One study conducted in Australia found that people who poured mustard and Tabasco sauce on their dinner had more trouble falling asleep and slept lighter than those who ate blander dinners. Spices can also cause heartburn. If you can’t give up spicy food, at least avoid dinners that are both spicy and high in fat at the same time. They are a recipe for disaster.

Chicken

Chicken and high-protein foods in general are healthy, but counterproductive if consumed at night. Everybody loves fried chicken, but we can’t say that’s healthy, and it’s even worse at dinnertime. The rate of digestion drops in half while you’re sleeping, but if you eat a lot of protein at dinner, you digest even more slowly. The body focuses on digesting rather than sleeping. You can tip the balance back toward sleep by adding a carbohydrate to the protein – for instance having chicken with a side dish of potato mash or whole baked potatoes.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate energizes, being an excellent source of iron and magnesium. Ideally, it should be 70 per cent. That said, it is not recommended at any time after 4 pm. It takes hours to digest, gives lots of energy and is counterproductive later in the day. You shouldn’t eat it every day either.

Finally,the biggest culprit of all: Overeating. We’re not telling you to go to bed hungry, but you shouldn’t hit the sack completely stuffed either. When you overeat before bed, your body will work to digest that hefty dinneruntil early morning and won’t be focused on resting. One mistake people who are trying to lose weight make is eating lightly in the day and stuffing themselves at night. This is counterproductive both to dieting and sleeping because the body stores the excess calories as fat, so you don’t lose weight or even gain weight and have poor quality sleep as well. Poor quality sleep itself causes weight gain.

Please check out our free sleep tip sheet with 10 sleep tips for fast tracking to better sleep. If you are still having trouble sleeping, contact me, Ashley Gilmour – there could be other factors causing your sleep issues!

ashley gilmour

Having trouble getting a better nights sleep? or have a question or query? Contact Ashley your Gold Coast Psychologist via email [email protected] or on 07 55743888. We are more than happy to help you!

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