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Foods That Help You Sleep and Foods That Keep You Up at Night: Fiber-rich foods, as well as those with melatonin and tryptophan, can help you fall asleep.

A good night's rest actually may start hours before your bedtime by choosing foods that promote high-quality sleep and avoiding those that can interfere with your shut-eye. Two components of foods that are shown to be most helpful in improving sleep quality are melatonin and tryptophan.

Melatonin. Melatonin is a well-known sleep aid due to its positive effects in regulating your body's circadian (or physiological) rhythms, as well as alleviating jet lag and insomnia. According to a study in Nutrients, melatonin-rich foods such as milk, eggs, fish (especially salmon), whole grains (particularly barley, oats, whole wheat, and red or black rice), nuts and seeds (pistachios and walnuts), tart cherries, mushrooms, and germinated or sprouted beans or lentils all increase the amount of melatonin circulating in your body. Coffee beans also are high in melatonin, but their benefits often are negated by their high caffeine content.

The amount of melatonin found in foods varies widely by variety, genotype, and growing conditions, so it's difficult to determine how much melatonin you are consuming. Also, there isn't enough research on supplements to determine the safest dose of melatonin, so it's best to choose melatoninrich foods for a sleep-inducing boost.

"A light dinner of pistachio-crusted salmon with sauteed barley and mushrooms is a great combination of nutritious as well as melatonin-rich foods," says Jenna Rosenfeld, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell.

Tryptophan. In addition to melatonin, tryptophan is a well-known sleep aid. This amino acid functions as a precursor to serotonin and melatonin in the body. They all are part of the system that properly regulates sleep. Research has found tryptophan in high levels in foods such as lean pork, turkey or chicken breast, lean roast beef, mozzarella cheese, 2 percent milk, and eggs.

"Given the high melatonin and tryptophan content of milk, a warm glass of milk remains a tried-and-true sleep aid," says Rosenfeld.

Mediterranean Diet. Research from self-reported surveys has shown that adherence to a Mediterranean diet improved sleep quality among older adults. Other studies have found that higher fiber intake (characteristic of the Mediterranean diet) can support better sleep quality. Given that many of the foods high in melatonin (legumes, whole grains, milk, and eggs) make up the basis of a Mediterranean diet, it is clear that this eating pattern supports good sleep.

Habits to Avoid

While the aformentioned foods can help people sleep better, longer, and with fewer disturbances, there are some habits and foods associated with poorer sleep.

Low Fiber, High Saturated Fat, and High Sugar Intake. In a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers reported that a diet low in fiber and high in saturated fat and sugar was associated with more arousals and lighter, less restorative sleep. Other research has found a direct association between high sugar intake prior to bed and impaired sleep.

Irregular Eating. Researchers who reviewed a series of related studies reported in Advances in Nutrition that irregular eating patterns, more frequent and higher-calorie snacks at night, and relying on snacks rather than three meals a day all were associated with shorter sleep duration. A National Institutes of Health study found that women with shorter durations of sleep were more likely to have irregular eating patterns and to do more snacking, especially of higher fat and sugar choices.

"Maintaining a regular eating schedule can be a helpful habit for good sleep hygiene," says Rosenfeld. "Many gastroenterologists (who focus on the digestive system) say avoiding late-night snacking and larger meals at night is the key to avoiding indigestion, heartburn, and sleep interruptions."

Sudafed and thyroid meds also can interfere with sleep. And Rosenfeld suggests avoiding mint, chocolate, tomatoes or tomato-based dishes, caffeine, alcohol and greasy, fatty or spicy foods in the evening, as indigestion can disrupt sleep.

Caption: Sugary foods and low fiber or high-fat foods can unsettle your stomach and cause you to toss and turn, ruining your good night's sleep. Conversely, healthy foods can help you sleep.
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Publication:Women's Nutrition Connection
Date:Feb 20, 2019
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