Foods that help you sleep well…and some that don’t

29 March 2019

This week a new study showed us how coffee sets your body clock back by an hour. We look at which foods and drinks are best for sleeping well, and which will keep you up all night

Coffee and chocolate in bed

We all know coffee can help keep us awake at night. In fact, many of us have probably used caffeine as a tool to keep us going with our work, or to help prop our lids open in the early morning.

A study has revealed the true effect a cup of Joe has on our bodies – it sends them back in time! Not literally of course, but the study says coffee can have the same effects as moving through time zones when travelling.

When you drink coffee late in the evening, it resets your internal body clock. A double espresso just 3 hours before hitting the hay can turn the body clock back by nearly an hour.

How does it work?

The tired feeling in our bodies before bed comes from a rise in the hormone melatonin. This tells our body that it’s time to rest. Caffeine delays this rise.

So, while for you it might be 10pm in London, your body thinks its 9pm in Reykjavik. If you add bright light to the equation, it gets worse, with your body going back 105 minutes.

Best and worst foods for sleep

It’s not just coffee that can have an effect on our sleeping patterns. Here we take a look at the foods and drinks that will help you sleep well and those best to avoid before bed.

For a good night’s sleep

Foods for a good nights sleep

  1. Cherries: Not only are they healthy but they’re one of the few foods that contain high levels of sleep-inducing melatonin.
  2. Seeds and nuts: Thanks to their magnesium, these tasty snacks will help relax your muscles and prevent spasms that can wake you in the night.
  3. Bananas: The high level of carbohydrate in bananas helps our bodies to produce serotonin, which relaxes our brains. Try having it with some nuts to stop it from producing a sugar spike.
  4. Warm milk: Milk contains amino acids that help your brain produce the relaxing serotonin. But go easy as too much dairy before bed can lead to feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
  5. Jasmine rice: Any food that’s high on the glycemic index (GI) is good for before bed as it means sugars are slowly released into the blood stream, instead of spiking.

 To avoid before bed:

Hot chocolate

  1. Alcohol: Any form of alcohol before bed is bad. It has an effect on your metabolism that keeps it going during the night. It’s also a diuretic, which means you’ll want to go to the toilet more.
  2. Burgers: Any food high in fat should be avoided. High fat foods can lead to excess stomach acid – or heartburn – which is guaranteed to keep you awake.
  3. Chocolate: Like coffee, chocolate is high in caffeine. It’s also full of a stimulant called theobromine, which can increase your heart rate.
  4. Chilli: Any spicy food should be avoided before bed as it can cause heartburn, while some chilli peppers can even increase your heartrate.
  5. Celery: Every dieter’s go-to snack food is actually - like caffeine and alcohol - a diuretic. Eating too much before bed could result in endless trips to the toilet.

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