Foods to eat, and avoid for a good night’s sleep

According to a new study, dark chocolate may help you sleep better - that is because the Magnesium found in dark chocolate helps regulate the body clock, and thus, improve sleep quality. In fact, how well you sleep is, most often, a product of your food habits, and so it is a good idea to watch what you are eating, in order to be able to sleep well. 

Here is what you can eat to bring on a good night’s sleep, and what you should avoid:

Warm milk and other dairy products: The good old advise of drinking warm milk before going to sleep, holds true for other dairy products as well. This is because they contain a sleep inducing substance known as Tryptophan, that helps in the production of the chemicals, melatonin and serotonin, which help put you off to sleep. Try a spoon of honey with your milk – since both contain Trytophan, the combination is sure to give you a good sleep. Yogurt is another good option for helping you sleep.

Fish: According to an article published in the New York Academy of Sciences, fish helps bring on a good night’s sleep. Fish such as tuna and salmon contain vitamin B6, needed to make melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.

High Glycaemic Index food: According to studies, carbohydrate rich foods, which contain a high Glycaemic Index (GI) – a measure of how quickly carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in the blood - may help induce sleep. This is because food containing high GI increases the level of proteins which are used to make the sleep inducing hormone serotonin. So if you find it difficult to sleep at night, try having carbohydrate rich food such as rice.

Cereal: If you feel hungry in the night, try having a bowl of cereal with milk. The combination of milk (Trytophan) and cereals (carbohydrates) helps induce sleep. The calcium from the milk also helps regulate the muscle movement.

Herbal teas: Herbal teas such as chamomile, passion flower tea, etc, help calm the mind and induce sleep. This is because, according to research, drinking tea increases glycine, which is a chemical that helps relax the nerves and muscles, hence acting as a sedative.

Food rich in Magnesium: According to the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, consuming too little Magnesium can impair your sleep. Hence, opt for food that is rich in Magnesium, such as nuts, whole grains such as barley, dark leafy vegetables and fish. Dark chocolates also contain Magnesium.   

Bananas: Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 (needed to make melatonin), thus helping to bring on sleep. They also contain magnesium and potassium – both of which are known to be muscle relaxants.

Cherries: Cherries – both fresh and dried, are great fruits to snack on in the night as they help to naturally boost the melatonin levels in the body, hence helping you sleep better. Tart cherries are even better options.

Chickpeas: Chickpeas are a good source of Vitamin B6, which helps boost melatonin levels in the body, and the sleep inducing tryptophan, and thus helps to bring on quality sleep. 

What to avoid:

Some foods may harm your sleep, and hence are best avoided at night:

Foods rich in tyramine: The amino acid, tyramine, causes the adrenal glands to secret noradrenaline – a brain stimulant, which can make you alert, or anxious and can seriously hamper with your sleep. Foods that contain tyramine include vegetables such as tomatoes, brinjals, potatoes, wine and processed cheese or meats such as pork.

Alcohol: While one would believe that a bit of alcohol may help you sleep better, too much alcohol can disrupt the body’s natural sleep rhythm. It tends to dehydrate the body, making you feel more thirsty at night, and also causes the blood sugar levels to dip.

Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage: These leafy vegetables, though good for you otherwise, are high on fiber, and hence in some cases, may cause the build up of excess gas – leading to bloating and abdominal cramps.

Processed junk food: This is a no brainer – processed foods which are high on sugar and fats, increase the production of acids in the stomach – leading to heartburn and indigestion. The result - apart from a bad stomach, you may also end up waking up from your sleep feeling sluggish and lethargic. 

Coffee: Come exam time, and most people drink coffee to stay up. The reason is that coffee contains caffeine, which is a nervous stimulant. While people differ in their caffeine tolerance levels, it is best to skip coffee altogether at night.