It’s okay to have a snack before bed, especially if it’s been many hours since dinner. This will prevent you from going to bed hungry, which can interfere with sleep. However, now that you know it’s okay to eat before bedtime, that doesn’t give you free rein to finish off that carton of ice cream or leftover pizza!
Greasy or salty foods are tough on your bedtime digestion. The same with any food that is spicy or acidic like tomato sauce or citrus fruits, which can increase heartburn. In addition, although ice cream is a popular late night and refreshing treat, the simple sugars can cause an increase in energy, or alertness, which offsets that sleepy feeling.
The old adage about having a glass of warm milk before bedtime is not a myth! Warm liquids make you sleepy by increasing body temperature. Also, dairy contains tryptophan plus calcium to boost your sleep-well chemicals.
Tryptophan: An amino acid in turkey that purportedly increases sleepiness helps your body produce serotonin, or the feel-good hormone, which makes you feel calm and promotes good sleep. It works best when the stomach is empty or there is not too much protein in your system — so with turkey, the effect is somewhat dampened.
Melatonin: The same stuff that is affected by light and regulates your internal sleeping clock is also found naturally in some foods. Best sources for sleep: Oats and cherries.
Calcium: Calcium can convert tryptophan into melatonin. Calcium is also important for nerve impulses, and a deficiency may interrupt your sleep. Best sources for sleep: Low-fat milk and yogurt.
Magnesium: Helps decrease the production of cortisol, your stress hormone, that thwart a good night’s sleep. Magnesium is also key for muscle contraction so that your legs aren’t cramping up in the middle of the night. Best sources for sleep: Almonds and bran cereal.
Potassium: Important to prevent muscle cramping and Restless Leg Syndrome, which can keep you up when you’re trying to power down. Best sources for sleep: Banana and sweet potato.