We all know a good night’s sleep works wonders, but did you know that people who sleep less also gain more weight? According to the Huffington Post, a study at Harvard found that people who slept for fewer than five hours a night, when compared to those who slept seven hours, were 32% more likely to put on extra weight, as much as 33 extra pounds a year.
It turns out that eating well before bed is not just a matter of avoiding those extra calories that you won’t “burn off,” but what you eat can significantly help, or hurt, your sleep. Some foods keep you from falling asleep and some cause you to wake frequently, but others increase the hormones you need to relax and get quality sleep.
Exchange These Foods that Disturb Your Sleep for these that Help Your Sleep
- Naturally Caffeine-Free Teas instead of Decaf
Unfortunately, decaf coffee and tea are not really completely free of caffeine. Chamomile tea contains no caffeine and research shows that it increases release of glycine, a neurochemical that acts as a mild sedative. If you’re not a fan of chamomile, try rooibos, a delicious red tea that contains no caffeine and a number of other health benefits.
- Spinach instead of Broccoli
Avoid eating raw veggies before bed, especially brassicas that can cause bloating and gas. Substitute leafy greens like spinach. The calcium helps the body use tryptophan to create more melatonin.
- Salmon instead of Turkey
Despite the anecdotal evidence from years of sleepy Thanksgiving afternoons, turkey does not actually contain enough tryptophan, which would need to be consumed on an empty stomach, to help you sleep. Salmon is a better dinner choice. It’s not only healthy in other ways, but it’s a source of B6, which is believed to help the body produce melatonin.
- Tart Cherry Juice instead of Wine
We all know that alcohol can make us sleepy, but that same wine that puts us to sleep initially will wake us as it’s processed. Wine causes you to get less of the REM sleep you need to feel rested. On the other hand, tart cherry juice contains melatonin that will help you sleep more soundly and wake less often during the night.
If it’s a treat you’re craving, try these swaps for better sleep:
- Popcorn instead of Ice Cream
High-fat, high-protein foods like ice cream can lead to more digestive and more frequent nighttime trips to the bathrooms. Air-popped popcorn is a complex carb that is low in protein and fat. It’s one of the complex carbs that can help your body release serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax.
- Honey instead of Chocolate
Honey is a complex carb that can help induce sleep. It also causes a much smaller increase in the body’s insulin response, which could help sleep-inducing tryptophan to enter the brain more quickly.