Can’t Sleep a Full Night? Your Diet Could Be To Blame.

By Laurie Borenstein

With our ideal full night of beauty sleep increasingly losing out to surfing the web and trying to catch up on our DVRs, insomnia seems almost impossible to avoid. The consequences, though, go far beyond those pesky circles under our eyes. Rather, sleep deprivation can have a real impact on our overall health. The less sleep we get, the more likely we are to be stressed, late for work and too tired to exercise. It also heightens our risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. Wouldn’t you want to trade all of this for a little shuteye? We would! (It seems like a no-brainer, right?) But it could be a little more complicated; your eating habits could be to blame.

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The food you put into your body has a direct affect on you feel throughout the day—emotionally, mentally and physically. Starting with a healthy, balanced breakfast will kick-start your metabolism and provide you with a great foundation of energy for the rest of the day. You’ve heard it before, but beware of skipping meals as it can cause exhaustion and hypoglycemic irritability. Eating too close to bedtime can also have adverse effects, like raised body temperature and metabolic rate, making it more difficult for your body to calm down as you prepare to get your zzz’s. Carefully balanced and well-timed meals will help keep you full, energized, properly balanced and that much closer to a full night of sleep.

A delicious lemongrass and lime corn recipe to keep your sleep schedule on track.

While the timing of your meals can affect your sleep, so too can your food choices. For a better night’s sleep, try adding these to your diet before bed:

Bananas – This favorite fruit contains large amounts of tryptophan, which has been shown to allow the brain to release the brain chemicals melatonin and serotonin, which produce a soothing, relaxing effect. Moreover, it is thought that the potassium in bananas can help maintain normal sleep patterns throughout the night.

Warm Milk – This might sound like an old wives’ tale, but it’s nearly hypnotic effects are real. Dairy products are a good source of tryptophan, but it is more likely that the real reason this nighttime beverage puts you to sleep is psychological. If mom gave you warm milk when you were a kid, it will trigger those cozy memories of childhood and invoke feelings of relaxation. But hey, whatever works, right?

Almonds – High in both magnesium (a muscle relaxer) and tryptophan, a handful of these protein-packed snacks are a great way to prep your body for a full night of rest.

Honey – Rich in antioxidants, B-vitamins, and known for its antibacterial effect, honey can also help you get bleary-eyed.  Although too much sugar can be stimulating, a small amount of glucose tells your brain to shut off orexin, a chemical known to trigger sleep disorders. Add honey to your oatmeal or warm milk, for a tasty, sleep-inducing snack.

This fresh salad is a recipe for sleep. (Add almonds and honey for an extra kick in the right direction.)

While the above foods can help ensure a restful night, other meals, snacks and even drinks can impede your beauty rest. The things that can get in the way of your sleep cycle (and you should thus avoid):

Rich & Spicy Foods – Frequently responsible for heartburn and that heavy-bellied feeling when you lie down, rich and spicy foods often result in insomnia.

Sweets – Avoid eating sweets within four hours of bedtime since anything sugary acts as a stimulant and can keep you up.

Alcohol – Although a nightcap may make you feel sleepy at first, it is likely to wake you up later in the evening, sabotaging a consistent, restful sleep.

Decaf Coffee – Sure, it sounds innocent enough, but decaf almost always has enough “caf” left in it to keep you awake. Go for calming herbal teas instead.

When you do sleep, make it beauty sleep!

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