Which Foods Help or Harm Your Sleep

Eating a small bowl of cereal and milk before bed can help you enjoy a better, more restful sleep. (Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Did you know that food can affect how you sleep? Here’s what to eat and what to avoid when you’re trying to catch some quality zzzs (via WebMD):

Avoid these:

High-fat foods. Studies show that people who consume large portions of fat have more disruptive sleep cycles than those who don’t.

Hidden caffeine. Even moderate amounts of caffeine before bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep. Use caution when drinking tea, soda or decaffeinated coffee (which still contains a minimal amount of caffeine), and when eating chocolate.

Caffeinated medication. Check the labels of over-the-counter and prescription medications, which may contain caffeine as well. Pain relievers, cold medications, weight loss pills and diuretics are common culprits.

Alcohol. Though it may help you fall asleep faster, alcohol can cause less restful sleep, more frequent awakenings, night sweats and nightmares. For the most restful sleep, avoid alcohol four to six hours before bed.

Heavy, spicy foods. Your digestive system slows down when you sleep, so lying down with a full belly can cause discomfort and heartburn. Be sure to finish a heavy meal at least four hours before bed.

Protein-rich foods. Though protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, it is harder to digest, so avoid foods high in protein, like beef and chicken, right before bedtime.

Fluids. To avoid any extra trips to the bathroom, stop drinking any fluids by 8 p.m.

Eat these:

Low-fat dairy, eggs, bananas, honey, nuts and seeds. These foods are rich in tryptophan, a sleep-promoting substance.

A bowl of cereal with milk, yogurt and crackers, or whole-grain bread with cheese. Carbohydrate-rich foods increase the level of tryptophan in your blood, helping you to fall asleep more easily.

A small snack. Having a bit of food in your stomach can help you to avoid insomnia. But keep your snack small, as a heavy meal can send your digestive system into full swing and keep you awake.

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