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Sleep-Promoting Foods

It is widely known that one of the keys to a good night's sleep is feeling calm and relaxed before you slip between the sheets. What you may not know, however, is that just how well you sleep often depends on what you eat. While some foods give you the energy you need to start your day, other foods promote calming and can be very helpful in getting a restful night's sleep.

Foods that contain tryptophan are especially helpful in calming your brain. Tryptophan is the amino acid your body uses to make serotonin and melatonin, the neurotransmitters that slow down nerve traffic so your brain isn't so busy. By eating tryptophan-containing foods, you are feeding your brain the material it needs to build these neurotransmitters and help you relax. The more tryptophan available to your brain, the more sleepy you'll become.

Eating meals rich in carbohydrates can be especially helpful in slowing down your brain when it's time for you to relax. In the evening, try to eat dinner and bedtime snacks high in complex carbohydrates with medium or low amounts of protein. All-carb snacks, such as those high in junk sugars, are less likely to help you sleep. The best bedtime foods are those that have both complex carbohydrates, protein, and calcium. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin, which explains why dairy products are some of the top sleep-inducing foods.

Foods that are high in tryptophan include poultry, dairy products, soy products such as soy milk and tofu, eggs, seafood, meats, whole grains, rice, and beans. If you'd like a good bedtime snack that is high in carbs and calcium, and medium to low in protein, one option is a bowl of whole grain cereal with milk. An even tastier option, for example, is oatmeal raisin cookies and a glass of milk. Peanut butter sandwiches are another alternative. Just remember to have your snack at least an hour before you go to bed, as it takes approximately that much time for the tryptophan in foods to reach the brain.

As for dinners to help prepare you for a good night's sleep, meals that are both high in carbohydrates and protein include pasta with parmesan cheese, meats and protein with vegetables, hummus on whole wheat pita bread, scrambled eggs with cheese, and a tuna salad sandwich, just to name a few.

Do your best to steer clear of meals that are high in fat and come in large servings, as they will only prolong the work your digestive system has to do. You don't want to be kept awake by gas production and funny noises coming from your stomach! Some people also believe that spicy foods and those with a lot of seasonings interfere with sleep, as well, especially if you suffer from heartburn, so go easy on the garlic and pepper. And while some people may fall asleep faster on a full stomach, all the work your body must do to digest a big meal is likely to cause frequent waking and a poorer quality of sleep. Try to eat your dinner early and around the same time every night.

 


 

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