Lullabies and Sleepkillers: Snackcident Edition
The secret to sleeping without interruptions could be in your diet. It has long been known that consumption of certain foods before bed could promote or inhibit your ability to fall asleep.
Here are a few tips on what to stock up on and which snacks to avoid on your next grocery run.
Rich in melatonin - our sleep cycle regulator, cherries are encouraged as a sleep promoter snack by registered dietician and author of The small change diet, Keri Gans. Melatonin is the natural hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain at the onset of darkness to promote sleep. The melatonin levels remain high through to the night to keep you resting. Due to electronic lighting and excessive screen use before bed, keeping your melatonin up using tart cherries could be the key to a better nights sleep.
Fast Food (✕)
The astronomical fat content of typical fast foods such as a bacon cheeseburger is a guaranteed sleep killer. Acid production in the stomach stimulated by these foods can spill into the oesophagus and cause heartburn making it very difficult to get to sleep. The high- fat, high-salt content of this meal is definitely one to avoid for the health conscious ones among us.
The age old concept of a warm glass of milk making drifting off to sleep that much easier may be more than an old wives tale. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin (the happiness hormone). It’s a controversial theory in the greater scientific community but it has been theorised that the combination of tryptophan and serotonin in milk helps promote sleep in adults and children alike.
Alcohol in any form is the worst kind of sleep killer. It is metabolised quickly in your system causing multiple arousals through the night. One study found a glass of bourbon or vodka mixed with a caffeine free soft drink can reduce your nightly sleep by 19 minutes.5
Jasmine Rice (✓)
Studies from the University of Sydney suggest that quickly digested foods high on the glycemic index (GI), allows a faster sleep onset time.1 Jasmine rice releases glucose quickly into the bloodstream allowing the body to digest it slowly and remain fuller for longer. The study, now published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that patients consuming the rice 4 hours before bedtime took half the time to fall asleep when compared to those consuming a meal with a Low GI long grain rice variety.
With a high caffeine content coffee is considered one of the strongest central nervous system stimulants abundantly available today. Though an individual’s sensitivity to caffeine varies greatly based on how much you are used to consuming, stimulants earlier on in the day is much better for your sleep.
Fortified Cereal (✓)
Carbs in general are great for promotion of healthy sleep but it is not a great idea to snack on high salt and sugar content foods before bed. Complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, barley and buckwheat provide a much better alternative. Combined with milk and high in these “good” carbs, fortified cereals are a perfect pre- bedtime meal.
Dark Chocolate (✕)
Due to its higher caffeine content, dark chocolate is definitely a sleep killer. Even a 100g serving of 60% ‘bittersweet’ dark chocolate can contain upto 120mg caffeine. It also contains theobromine, a muscle stimulating chemical that increases heart rate and restlessness.
On the flip side, with its higher content in muscle relaxing minerals such as potassium and magnesium, bananas are considered a great sleep promoters. “We need potassium for cardiovascular health and cognitive functioning” says CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, Dr Rosenberg (Ph.D)7,. “They are overall health promoters”.
Energy Drinks (✕)
Yep, caffeine is back at it again, keeping us up and away from our beds. A standard can of redbull can contain 80mgs of caffeine. With the effects of caffeine taking up to 8 hours to wear off, Gans says you may be better off avoiding energy drinks altogether even earlier on in the day.
Sweet Potato (✓)
Not only are sweet potatoes rich in complex carbohydrates, they also provide a good source of potassium. With both of these sleep promoting agents in the same superfood, it’s an insomniacs dream.
Heavy Spices (✕)
A local study found that men who poured tabasco and mustard on their dinner had more trouble falling asleep and experienced a much lighter sleep than men who ate blander dinners.3 The spices also cause heartburn meaning a spicy, high-fat diet late in the day could keep you up a lot longer than you want.
Afaghi, A., O'Connor, H., & Chow, C. (2007). High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 85(2), 426-430. Supported by Sydney University's PhD student research budget. The rice was provided by Riviana Food Pty Ltd, Victoria, Australia.
Caffeine Chart | Center for Science in the Public Interest. (2018). Cspinet.org.
Edwards, S., Montgomery, I., Colquhoun, E., Jordan, J., & Clark, M. (1992). Spicy meal disturbs sleep: an effect of thermoregulation?. International Journal Of Psychophysiology, 13(2), 97-100.
Gans, K. (2014). The small change diet. New York: Gallery Books. Supported by University of Tasmania, National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the National Heart Foundation
Rohsenow, D., Howland, J., Arnedt, J., Almeida, A., Greece, J., & Minsky, S. et al. (2010). Intoxication With Bourbon Versus Vodka: Effects on Hangover, Sleep, and Next-Day Neurocognitive Performance in Young Adults. Alcoholism: Clinical And Experimental Research, 34(3), 509-518. supported by: the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Center for Research Resources, the Youth Alcohol Prevention Center
Sookoian, S., Gemma, C., Gianotti, T., Burgueño, A., Alvarez, A., González, C., & Pirola, C. (2007). Serotonin and Serotonin Transporter Gene Variant in Rotating Shift Workers. Sleep, 30(8), 1049-1053. supported by Universidad de Buenos Aires, Agencia Nacional de Promotión Científica y Tecnológica, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Téecnicas
- Gardner, A. (2018). Best and Worst Foods for Sleep. Health.