Let’s face it — we live in a non-stop
society. In our rush, we too often put sleep on the back burner. As a busy
mom myself, I can understand why people forgo sleep to get things done.
But it’s the wrong approach. Sleep has a huge effect on how you feel
throughout the day, and nutrition plays a role in how well you sleep. Food
relates directly to serotonin, a key hormone that — along with Vitamin B6, B12,
and folic acid — helps promote healthy sleep. Try to consume foods that calm
the body, increase serotonin levels and get you ready for restful sleep.
Here are a few foods to get you started on the path to slumber.
1. Complex carbohydrates
Embrace whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and brown rice. Avoid
simple carbohydrates, including breads, pasta and sweets such as cookies,
cakes, pastries and other sugary foods. These tend to reduce serotonin levels
and do not promote sleep.
2. Lean proteins
Lean proteins include low-fat cheese, chicken, turkey and fish. These foods
are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which tends to increase serotonin
levels. On the flipside, avoid high-fat cheeses, chicken wings or deep-fried
fish. These take longer to digest and can keep you awake.
Unsaturated fats will not only boost your heart health but also improve your
serotonin levels. Examples include peanut butter (read the label to make sure
peanuts are the only ingredient) and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews and
pistachios. Avoid foods with saturated and trans fats, such as french fries,
potato chips or other high-fat snack foods. These bring your serotonin levels
Certain drinks can promote or prevent sleep. A good, soothing beverage to
drink before bedtime would be warm milk (your mother was right) or herbal tea
such as chamomile or peppermint. As for caffeinated drinks, I recommend that my
clients who are having difficulty sleeping consume that last cup by 2 p.m. Caffeine
can affect people differently, and even the smallest amount of stimulant can
keep you awake.
5. Fresh herbs
Fresh herbs can have a calming effect on the body. For example, sage and
basil contain chemicals that reduce tension and promote sleep. Trymaking
your own homemade pasta sauce with sage and basil. It’s easy to do, and homemade
sauces tend to be lower in sugar than store-bought versions. However, avoid
herbs such as red
pepper or black pepper at night, as they have a stimulatory effect.