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Sleep Better: Foods that Help or Harm Sleep

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We’ve all had that feeling, tossing and turning, staring at the clock and doing the math for the number of hours of sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep right now…or how about right now?! It’s not only a terrible feeling in the moment, but it can impact your productivity, drain your immune system and make you cranky and terrible to be around. But did you know that the food that you eat can either help or harm your sleep? Follow these tips below to lead you to a restful sleep tonight.

Sleep Saboteurs

1. Caffeine

This one may seem obvious, but what is not as obvious is how long caffeine can stay in your body. It typically takes 4-6 hours for caffeine to leave your system but for some people it can stick around even longer. This means that even your early afternoon pick-me-up could be keeping you up at night. Try replacing your afternoon coffee with a 10 minute walk with a co-worker. Besides the mental break, a brisk walk can kick up your energy for 2 hours without negatively impacting your sleep.

2. Alcohol

Have you ever found yourself waking up at 2am or experiencing night sweats after even just a glass of wine at night? Although a little alcohol can be relaxing at first, it can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your sleep. Consider passing on the night-cap for a week and see if your sleep improves. You may find that a drink at dinner was more of a ritual than a necessity, and you’re feeling better without it.

3. Large High-Fat Meals

Digestion is hard work for your body and can take a lot of energy. When you eat a large meal right before bed, the process of digestion can cause discomfort and make it hard to fall asleep. Try to have your dinner earlier in the night, and your last snack about 45 minutes before you crawl into bed for the night.

Sleep Supporters

1. Magnesium

I really love magnesium! If I had to choose an ideal mineral, magnesium would certainly be it. A magnesium deficiency can be associated with most things that cause tension. Sore muscles, twitching, constipation and insomnia are some of the most common issues I see in my practice. Magnesium is found in beans, whole grains, leafy greens and nuts. In addition to eating magnesium, you can also absorb it through your skin. Try taking a 10 minute soak in Epsom salts (made with magnesium) prior to bed and see if that helps your sleep, I really think you’ll find that you love it as much as I do!

2. Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino-acid found in many animal and plant proteins, most notably turkey. It is a key ingredient in the creation of serotonin, which helps you feel calm and promotes sleep. Tryptophan is found in high levels in poultry, dairy, nuts, eggs, honey and bananas.

However there is one catch: in order for tryptophan to work, there needs to be carbohydrates present to help the tryptophan absorb into the brain. So shoot for a combination of tryptophan containing foods and carbohydrates as a bedtime snack. A few of my favorites are yogurt & honey, toast with almond butter or hard boiled eggs with hummus.

3. Melatonin

Melatonin is the hormone that our body uses to regulate sleep. It has recently become a popular sleep supplement; however it can be found naturally in cherries. Unfortunately cherries have a relatively short growing season, so during the times of year when you can’t get them fresh, add in about 4 oz. of tart cherry juice about an hour before bed.

Article was written by Tara and first appeared on TotalGym.com.

24 comments
  1. HI Tara
    The myth of tryptophan in turkey has been proven wrong a while ago. Here is a quote from WIKIPWDIA
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tryptophan#Turkey_meat_and_drowsiness
    “Dietary sources
    Tryptophan is a routine constituent of most protein-based foods or dietary proteins. It is particularly plentiful in chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, bananas, and peanuts.[19] Despite popular belief.[20][21][22] that turkey has a particularly high amount of tryptophan, the amount of tryptophan in turkey is typical of most poultry.[23] There is also a myth that plant protein lacks tryptophan; in fact, tryptophan is present in significant amounts in almost all forms of plant protein, and abundant in some.”
    Thanks for the tips
    Happy sleeping

  2. You are absolutely correct! Although turkey gets most of the attention when it comes to tryptophan, there are other great sources. That is a great link and I appreciate you sharing!

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