Talk about multi-tasking - lose weight and get a better night’s sleep at the same time? Does this sound too good to be true? Research shows that people who are sleep-deprived have a decreased level of the “appetite regulating hormone” known as leptin, which can make you feel hungrier, wanting to eat more and potentially adding on those extra pounds.
Healthy nutritional balance and optimal weight
Let’s take a look at some foods that can help you to quiet your mind, let go of tense muscles, and get those sleep-inducing hormones flowing for a restful night’s sleep–with the added bonus of managing your “appetite regulating hormone,” keeping your body in healthy nutritional balance and at its optimal weight.
Understanding what is in these sleep-inducing foods is a good place to start. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body cannot make itself. It comes only from the foods that we eat. Once tryptophan-containing food crosses the blood-brain barrier, it converts to the “sleep-inducing hormones” serotonin and melatonin. When your serotonin and melatonin get flowing you feel relaxed, making it easier to nod off. It is important to combine tryptophan-containing foods with carbohydrates. They work very well together, becoming even more effective at calming your brain.
Additionally, here are some minerals that can lend a helping hand: c****alcium has been proven to help the brain use and process tryptophan. Magnesium, a natural sedative, also acts as an “assistant” to calcium, binding to calcium, allowing it to be absorbed into your system. Now that you know a bit about what to look for in foods to promote a good night’s rest, let’s put some ideas into practice.
Moderation and timing are important
What follows are some suggestions for healthy bedtime snacks that pack a powerful punch in sending you off to a good night’s rest. These ideas combine tryptophan-rich foods with carbohydrate-rich foods, as well as including calcium and magnesium. However, be mindful that over-indulging in food (even food with tryptophan) can backfire. Too much food puts your digestive system into working over-time, and this can not only contribute to indigestion; it can keep you awake. Moderation is key. Think of your snack fitting into the palm of your hand. That is how much your stomach can handle. Your timing of when you eat this snack is also important. The effects of tryptophan-laden foods won’t be immediate; it can take up to 45 minutes to an hour for the drowsy feeling to take hold of you, so plan accordingly.
· Banana with small glass of milk
· Small bowl of oatmeal or cereal with milk
· Small yogurt with granola sprinkled on top
· Half bagel or a few crackers with peanut butter, an ounce of cheese or a slice of turkey on top
· Sliced apple with 1 ounce of cheese
· One scrambled egg with toast
· Chamomile tea (a bedtime favorite for its mild sedating effect)
Your possibilities are endless when combining tryptophan and carbohydrate-rich foods. Be creative and enjoy the process of experimenting with what combinations work well for you. Change up your choices and take note of what works the best, as ensuring a variety in your diet keeps you from getting bored and losing interest.
Increase your chances
Bear in mind that many healthy lifestyle factors affect your sleep; eating three healthy meals, along with regular balanced exercise and a diligent bedtime routine, all contribute to good sleep. Bedtime snack food ideas can increase your chances of getting some much needed z’s, and with those solid hours of sleep your whole body will enjoy healthy balance, too.
Beth wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Sleep Disorders.