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Nobody's health class includes a unit called "How to Sleep," but one of the best ways to beat insomnia is to make small changes in your diet. Here are ten tips for getting better sleep by changing what you eat.

Natural health gurus tend to overlook the issue of insomnia. It's easy to find advice on losing weight by changing your sleep habits. There's even an "overnight diet" that touts losing weight by getting better sleep. It's a lot harder, however, to find good advice on getting good sleep by changing what you eat, killing two birds with one stone. Here are 10 tips on the changes in your diet that can help you get good sleep and that may coincidentally help you lose weight.

1. Milk and cookies aren't the ideal bedtime snack, but you could do worse.

For several generations many American mothers offered their children a glass of warm milk, or a glass of warm milk with cookies, to help them sleep better and do better in school. (Before about 1930 "warm" milk late in the evening would usually have been going sour.) Many adults still drink milk or eat dairy products 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime as part of their evening routine.

There's actually a scientific rationale for this bedtime snack. Milk is a good source of the amino acid tryptophan. The brain uses tryptophan to make serotonin, which keeps you upbeat during the day but helps you fall asleep at night. Tryptophan is transported into the brain more rapidly when your blood sugar is a little higher, hence the addition of cookies. The main downside of a milk and cookies snack is the added calories. If you have a weight problem, or you are diabetic or prediabetic, there are better alternatives.

2. Wheat grass and barley grass are ideal bedtime snacks from a physiological point of view.

Wheat grass and barley grass powders are great for helping you get to sleep. Wheat grass juice has a similar effect. These organic vegetable products provide calcium, potassium, and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), all of which help you gently fall asleep. Of course, not everyone likes the way they taste. They are usually disguised with juice or even in cookies, which can be high in sugar. You'll probably get a better result in terms of sleep from these products, assuming you don't brood and fret over how much they cost and how they taste.

3. Chamomile tea helps you sleep if you have allergies, arthritis, or chronic aches and pains.

Chamomile tea is anti-inflammatory, at least if you brew it at relatively low heat. The chamazulene in the herb that helps relieve pain and inflammation so you can get to sleep faster is bound to the essential oil, which evaporates if the herb is placed in boiling water. Most homes in Latin America and Hispanic homes in the United States and Canada stock Té Camomila, especially for controlling anxiety that interferes with sleep. You can usually get higher-quality herb at lower cost at markets that specialize in Latin American foods.

4. Vinegar and Pickles at Dinner Interfere with Sleep

It may sound a little odd to advise against eating anything with vinegar or anything pickled more than four hours before bedtime, but avoiding these acidic foods actually makes a difference in how well you sleep. Here's the reason: Acidic foods slow down the release of digested food from your stomach. Going to bed on a full stomach can lead to bloat, gas, and heartburn, if you roll over on your stomach during the early night. Avoid eating these foods just before bed.

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