The Bedtime Snack That Actually Helps You Sleep

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

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The Bedtime Snack That Actually Helps You SleepAre you having trouble sleeping through the night? Maybe there is some stress in your life, or perhaps you have some health problems that interfere with being able to stay asleep. Or you may, like many, have trouble falling asleep in the first place. Well — here’s a health tip for how to get a restful night’s sleep without reaching for sleeping pills: eat the right snack before bed!

You’ve probably been told or have read somewhere in the health news that what you eat affects how you sleep. But you may not be aware of why. The answer lies in two substances called “tryptophan” and “tyrosine.” Tryptophan is an amino acid. Your body uses tryptophan to make serotonin. And serotonin slows down activity in your brain, helping you prepare for sleep. Tyrosine, on the other hand, wakes your brain up.

So the trick is to eat tyrosine-containing foods during the morning and tryptophan-containing foods in the evening. When you eat a tryptophan food with carbohydrates, you make even more tryptophan available to your brain. A meal high in carbohydrates will release insulin. Insulin, in turn, clears your bloodstream of amino acids that compete with tryptophan. Now more of this “sleepy” amino acid can enter the brain and, you guessed it, produce more serotonin.

To get the balance right, eat a bedtime snack that is high in complex carbohydrates, plus a small amount of protein and some calcium. The calcium will help your brain use the tryptophan in the protein that in turn helps your brain relax. It takes about one hour for tryptophan to reach your brain, so try to have your snack an hour before bed. Here are some suggestions for bedtime snacks that combine carbs, protein and calcium to create a natural sleep remedy:

— Whole-grain cereal with soymilk
— Hazelnuts and tofu
— Peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread
— Whole-grain pita and hummus
— Oatmeal and raisin cookies and a glass of milk
— A piece of low-sugar apple pie with a dollop of yogurt

If you’re not keen about eating a snack before bed, make sure you eat a dinner that will help you to get a good night’s sleep. Remember to eat a light meal. And eat at least three hours before bed. High-fat meals are difficult to digest, as are big, heavy meals. You may feel uncomfortable and restless if your stomach is trying to digest a big meal while you are trying to go to sleep.

For another great natural remedy for insomnia, check out Melatonin Could Relieve Jetlag, Anxiety, Insomnia




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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »