Sleep Remedies For The Holidays: Food for sleep.

10 December, 2012

Eaten too much, or consumed one too many drinks?  Looking for food which will help you sleep?  Here are a few tips.

At this time of year, food is on pretty much everybody’s mind.

It is a time for festivals and celebrations.  Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, food and drink play a dominant role.

So, it’s not surprising that we sometimes overindulge.  And that can have a direct influence on the way we sleep.

Your diet can seriously affect your sleep.  In fact, there is more and more evidence that good eating habits are linked to healthy sleeping patterns and that both are related to health and longevity.

Eating a large meal just before going to bed does not promote sleep.  It causes our digestive system to have to work harder than it should while you sleep, preventing the body from paying proper attention to the business of healing and rejuvenation for which sleep is designed and needed.  As a result, you may not wake up as refreshed as you should.

At the very least, overindulgence is likely to cause heartburn, indigestion or bloating, all of which will disturb your sleep.

And alcohol doesn’t help either as it can disrupt both REM and non-REM sleep.

Even though you may fall asleep easily under the effects of a few glasses of wine, you are likely to wake again in the middle of the night, leaving you feeling sleepy the next day.

So, the message here is…don’t overdo it!

There is some good news, though.  We can give you a few tips on food for sleep.  Turkey is rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid in the human diet.

Tryptophan is used to make the hormone serotonin which produces feelings of calm and relaxation, helping to promote sleep.  So it is important to ensure that levels of serotonin in the brain are adequate by making sure you eat foods rich in tryptophan.

Tryptophan is best absorbed into the brain when combined with carbohydrate-rich foods, so include healthy carb-rich foods such as green vegetables, brown rice, whole fruits, pulses, nuts and sweet potatoes.

A modest portion of turkey with some sweet potatoes and green beans or broccoli could actually enhance sleep.

Just take it easy on fatty foods, sweet deserts and wine!  And don’t drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks after the middle of the day, as sugar and caffeine are likely to disrupt sleep as well.

If you don’t fancy turkey, seafood is also rich in tryptophan.

According to an article in the Guardian newspaperMaría José San Román, the celebrated chef at Monastrell restaurant in Alicante, southern Spain, has discovered the ultimate “food to make you sleep.”

The menu would include:

A grilled octopus starter
A delicate pumpkin “lasagne” doused in a sage and chicken broth
and a main course of turbot with lemon calamari.

The secret ingredient, according to the chef, is the expensive spice, saffron, which is a key ingredient of the “lasagne” and which a 2009 study showed to have a soporific effect (on mice, at least), a good food for sleep.

Whatever your final choice of menu, follow these tips to get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Don’t overindulge
  2. Eat food rich in tryptophan, combined with healthy carbohydrates (preferably from the plant kingdom)
  3. Keep your regular sleep schedule
  4. Avoid alcohol, caffeinated and sugary drinks, and fatty or spicy foods. 

One last thing:

Chocolate may act as a stimulant and many sleep advisors say that it should be avoided.  But it is also a rich source of the chemicals theobromine and anandamine, which induce relaxation and the feelings associated with being in love.  It is one of the richest sources of Magnesium, known to be a natural sedative.  So consume in moderation and enjoy the holidays!

Let me know if you have your own tips for food for sleep.

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