The importance of sleep to our body and mind is unarguable. However, with the degree and frequency of modern man’s activities, his sleep is compromised. To this effect, he becomes exposed to potentially fatal dangers (
Ten Deadly Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Accordingly, food and sleep affect one another. If you don’t eat right, you lose sleep; and when you’re sleep-deprived, your eating habits suffer. So which foods must be taken in to avoid sleep deprivation? Are there really sleep-enhancing foods? Here are ten foods for a better sleep:
Whole grains. Fiber-rich foods like brown rice and quinoa contains large amounts of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that increases the levels of serotonin and melatonin in the brain. Serotonin is a feel-good neurotransmitter that calms the nervous system while melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone secreted in response to darkness. To add to that, whole grains slowly nourish the body throughout the night after you digest them. Lastly, whole-grain carbohydrates have a soothing effect.
Legumes. Legumes like peas and lentils contain high levels of B vitamins which also help calm the nervous system. But be careful since legumes are not for everyone. They can be hard to digest. Hence, pay attention to how you feel after eating them. If the legumes satisfy your hunger without making you feel overly full, then they just can be an essential part of your night diet. But if you feel sluggish or have an upset stomach after a meal of legumes, think otherwise.
Herbal Teas. Drinking caffeine-free tea, particularly gentle herbal varieties, relaxes the body, calms digestion, and soothes the stomach. Take your tea to a cozy spot where you can relax, smell the tea, and fully enjoy drinking it.
Soups and stews. Adding sleep-inducing foods to your diet will certainly help you get your beauty rest, but you should also pay attention to how you prepare them. Cooking sleep-inducing foods at low temperatures for long periods of time is ideal. Soups and stews – particularly those filled with fiber-rich veggies and legumes–and low-fat casseroles are much more calming and relaxing than seared meats and hot, spicy foods because when you cook something for a long time, the cooking process acts almost like our own digestive system. Long cooking times break down the starches and sugars in foods, so your body doesn’t have to work very hard to access their nutrients.
Cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is a perfect source of protein before bed since it contains slow-digesting casein proteins that will distribute the amino acids to the muscle tissues for hours to come. In addition, it also contains tryptophan.
Oatmeal. While most people think of oatmeal as a breakfast food, it does work well in the evening due to the fact that the carbohydrates cause a serotonin (the feel-good hormone) release in the body. Since oatmeal is also a slower digesting source of carbohydrates, you won't have to worry about waking up halfway through the night with crashing blood sugar levels.
Peanuts. Another food that you should consider if you often have difficulty falling asleep is peanuts or natural peanut butter. Peanuts are a rich source of niacin, which is another nutrient that helps to increase the release of serotonin in the system.
Berries and cherries. These fruits are rich in melatonin which stabilizes your sleep and wakefulness patterns by regulating the chemicals in your body that make you feel either drowsy or alert. Thus, it would be perfect to serve tarts of raspberries, strawberries and cherries for dinner.
Sesame seeds. They are one of the best natural sources of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid responsible for all of those post-Thanksgiving turkey comas. Hold off on the turkey sammies, though-the protein in the turkey might offset the tryptophan's benefit.
Fruit. Especially high in sleep-inducing tryptophan, bananas, mangoes, and dates are also great substitutes for higher-calorie desserts. While fruits do contain sugar, it’s natural–not processed–and fruit also comes packed with fiber. Another benefit from fruits: their high antioxidant content.