Midnight Snacks for the Insomniac
December 12, 2006 4:59am CST
find yourself making up for it before bedtime? If so, the types of foods you choose could make a big difference in the quality of your sleep. First, let's look at the foods that are most likely to keep you tossing and turning. Caffeine. Now, you don't need a doctor to tell you that caffeine will keep you awake, but it can lurk in unexpected places. Chocolate not only contains caffeine but also alkaloids which have a stimulating effect. Alcohol helps many of us feel calm and relaxed - especially that half glass of wine after a long, hard day. While this may help you fall asleep initially, it greatly diminishes the quality of sleep by disturbing neurotransmitter production, including serotonin. Alcohol is also a diuretic and may keep you running to the bathroom all night. Fatty foods take longer to work their way through your system, and the process of digestion can keep you awake. Fatty foods can also exacerbate heartburn. Spicy foods make heartburn worse as well. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame contain phenylalanine and aspartic acid, both of which are excitatory. So what can you raid the refrigerator for to limit the sheep count? It has a lot to do with serotonin. Milk (warm or not) contains tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. It's tryptophan in turkey that makes us so sleepy after that Thanksgiving dinner. Cheese, chicken, soy, yogurt, nuts and seeds also have tryptophan. Eat these (and all foods) at least 45 minutes prior to your planned bedtime. Complex carbohydrates like beans, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, and berries can also help increase serotonin levels. Watch out for simple carbs like rice, pasta, and white bread. The impact these have on blood sugar can disturb the sleep cycle. Vitamins B6 and B12 are necessary for your body to generate serotonin. B6 can be found in turkey, chicken, spinach, whole grains and seafood and B12 in animal-derived products like eggs and dairy foods. Magnesium-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and almonds can also facilitate sleep. See what combinations of these foods you can come up with. Share some of your recipes that will put us to sleep.