April 2014 > Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

Wellness Wise

Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

Tired of counting sheep? Having trouble falling asleep can be extremely frustrating. And lying awake at night on a regular basis may lead to making unhealthy food choices, and eventually to weight gain and increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Research has found that nearly 70 million Americans are sleep deprived, and this number is growing.

Sleep. Image for April 2014 Newsletter

Many of us know that shutting down electronics an hour before bedtime and hitting the sack at the same time every night can help achieve optimal sleep health. You may not be aware that what you eat for dinner can also play a role. Since a good night’s sleep is important for our health and well-being, do yourself a favor and eat right to sleep right. Serve sleep-inducing foods at dinner and keep foods that may interfere with your sleep to a minimum. Here are just a few examples. For more ideas about which foods to choose and which to avoid, visit this list from Cooking Light.

Best for Sleep: Milk

You can’t believe every old wives’ tale you hear, but your grandmother was right when she said that drinking a glass of milk before bed will help you sleep at night. Milk is a sleep supporter because it has tryptophan, which raises melatonin and serotonin levels in the body, both of which induce sleep. Plus, milk has calcium, and recent research has found that calcium deficiency in the diet can cause disturbed sleep patterns. See this month's Healthy Recipe of the Month to learn how to make a Date Milk Shake.

Best for Sleep: Legumes

One cup of cooked black, navy, lima, kidney, or pinto beans provides half of your suggested daily intake of tryptophan. Beans are also a good source of protein and fiber to keep you full throughout the night. Try a combination of your favorite beans in soup or chili. See this month's Healthy Recipe of the Month to learn how to make Black Bean Soup with Chorizo and Lime.

Worst for Sleep: Fatty Foods

Eating a high-fat meal right before bed can hinder your natural sleep cycle and cause you to feel sleepier during the day. To ensure that you will sleep well during the night (and take care of your waistline), include lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables on your dinner menu.

Worst for Sleep: High-Protein Meal

While this may come as a surprise, research has shown that eating a high-protein meal before bed can cause disturbances in sleep. Digestion slows down during sleep, so bulking up with a large quantity of protein at dinner may mean that the digestion of your high-protein dinner is keeping you up at night. Be sure to include carbohydrates and vegetables alongside protein at dinner for a healthy, balanced meal and a good night’s sleep.