Photo of bananas and sweet potato

Sleep Better: Best Foods To Eat and Avoid

By Dr Willie Ong (Internist and Cardiologist)

Sleep is important for our bodies to heal and get energized. Hence, you have to be careful what you eat at night so you can gain a restful sleep.

Here is a list of the worst foods and the best foods to eat before bedtime:

Avoid These Foods at Night:

1. Spicy foods like curry, chili and hot sauce.

Spicy foods are known to cause indigestion and heartburn. A study in Australia shows that people who used hot sauce and mustard on their food had a harder time sleeping compared to those who ate blander food.

2. Alcoholic drinks.

There is a misconception that alcohol helps you sleep. Yes, it’s true that alcohol will make you doze off. However, studies also show that these people are prone to having nightmares, and would wake up several times a night. Instead of looking refreshed in the morning, the alcoholic will wake up looking haggard and with a terrible headache.

3. Coffee and Energy drinks

Caffeine-containing beverages may keep you awake and stimulate the nervous system. If you drink coffee too close to bedtime, chances are you will not be able to sleep. Energy drinks are much worse because they contain 4 times the caffeine content as compared to a cup of coffee. A can of energy drink contains about 80 milligrams of caffeine.

4. Eating too much food.

There is a saying that goes, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” This makes a lot of sense because a light meal at night (around 200 calories only) in gentler on your digestion. We don’t want your stomach churning on a 16-ounce steak while you’re trying to sleep.

Best Foods To Eat Before Sleeping:

1. Bananas

Bananas contain tryptophan and carbohydrates which helps the brain to produce more serotonin. These chemicals make you feel calmer and more relaxed. Bananas lessen stress and anxiety too.

2. Sweet potato

Sweet potatoes contain healthy and sleep-inducing complex carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes are also excellent sources of fiber, vitamins B6, C and E, folate and potassium.

3. Chamomile Tea

Warm chamomile tea is a perfect relaxation drink. It relaxes the stomach muscles and its fragrant smell calms you down.

4. Milk

Your parents may have given you a glass of warm milk to help you sleep at night. There’s a scientific basis for this because milk contains the amino acid tryptophan. This chemical is converted into serotonin, which makes us happier and more relaxed. 

Final Tips:

Take a light meal 2 hours before bedtime. A light serving of rice, vegetables and fish is good for your digestion. There is wisdom to the saying, “No food intake after 6 P.M.” We want to give your body enough time to digest the food before you sleep. This will also lessen symptoms of hyperacidity and GERD (Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease).

Take a 10-minute walk after eating. By staying upright and helping gravity push the food down, you are helping in your digestion.

I hope my tips help you gain a healthy digestion and a peaceful sleep. Take care.

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