It has been a sleepless several nights for me, mainly because of troubling events. But it made me start thinking about food, and how it’s intimately connected to our patterns of sleep. If you can’t sleep, and life is calm and happy, maybe it’s something you ate–or didn’t. The foods we eat can dramatically affect how much, and how well, we snooze. Some calm and relax, some wake up the nervous system, and some just downright wire you for the night.
What you should eat for deeper sleep depends partly on your patterns. If you toss and turn before drifting off but then doze soundly for the rest of the night, you might benefit from adding slow-burning carbs (beans, sweet potatoes, berries) to your evening meal to prompt the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes calm. If you zonk out quickly but wake up a few hours later, you might be suffering from blood sugar fluctuations. I’ve tried a high-protein snack before bed–a handful of walnuts, a spoonful of almond butter, a small cube of cheese–and these tend to keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the night.
Focus on foods with soothing nutrients, like magnesium, which helps relax muscles and calms the body and B vitamins, key in the production of serotonin and other brain chemicals key to sleep. Trytophan, an amino acid that’s needed to make sleep-inducing serotonin, is especially effective when it’s paired with complex, slow-burning carbs.
And banish foods that stimulate the body and disrupt sleep. Click on the next page to find the worst sleep saboteurs.