Sleep tight with snooze foods

Anushree Basu        Print Edition: May 15, 2011

There's some science behind the old wives' tale that a glass of warm milk can help you sleep better at night. Research claims that what you eat is directly related to how you sleep. As Ritika Samaddar, Regional head, Dietetics at Max Healthcare in New Delhi says, "Anyone experiencing difficulty in falling asleep, waking up repeatedly or waking up too early, and having experienced these more than five times a month, could be suffering from insomnia. Its causes can range from medical conditions and stress to erratic eating habits."

So if this number matches yours, eating right can help before you're forced to resort to popping pills. But here, eating right isn't about counting calories and not all foods will cart you off to dreamland. Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist and director, Whole Foods, India points out, "The chemical tryptophan present in certain foods, is the raw material that the brain uses to release sleep-inducing hormones-serotonin and melatonin. Adequate serotonin levels promote deep, restorative sleep."

Foods like milk, yogurt, banana, cherries, fish, nuts, flaxseed, oatmeal, honey, turkey, soy, chamomile tea, wholewheat bread, and leafy vegetables, are rich in tryptophan. Also, magnesium (found in wheat bran, almonds, cashews, kelp and brewer's yeast) and vitamin B6 and B12 (found in wheat germ, sunflower seeds and oil, and tuna) are sleepfriendly nutrients and should be incorporated in a day's meal.

On the other hand, high-calorie and spicy foods are difficult to digest and cause interrupted or fitful sleep. Also, avoid eatables with high sugar content, caffeine, and nicotine because they stimulate the brain instead of relaxing it.

For better results, one must have a a long-term commitment to a well-balanced diet and a healthier lifestyle- think regular exercise, less late nights, no junk food, and yes, no cigarettes and alcohol. After all, you can't move mountains just by sipping green tea.

Dig into these
Here's another reason to hit the greens. A German study in Psychopharmacology reveals that vegetables like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and kale are powerhouses of vitamins that help combat stress and induce restful sleep.

Perfect timing
Restrict food intake at least two hours before bedtime to avoid feeling uncomfortably full. Besides, an active digestive system acts as a hindrance for the body and the mind to relax.

Wheat bran breads not only boost your serotonin and melatonin (these are the sleep-friendly hormones) levels, they are also rich in magnesium, which is a muscle relaxant. Eat them toasted and add a dash of honey!

The calcium content in milk helps the brain use tryptophan, creating melatonin faster, as do bananas. They make for a good wholesome breakfast.

Cut these out
The popular perception that a glass of wine acts as a sedative is a myth as it dehydrates your body. Wine will wake you up during the night, leaving you very thirsty and cranky.

Avoid fried and spicy foods for dinner as these are difficult to digest and make the digestive system hyper-active. Think twice before biting into your deep-fried chicken.

Caffeine is one of the most 'long-standing' products, that might take up to 14 hours to metabolise. So it is best not to have that double espresso too late in the day.

  • Print

A    A   A