Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco reduce melatonin (the sleep hormone) and act as sleep antagonists. Tryptophan-rich foods do the opposite, helping you sleep effortlessly. Don't sleep hungry. Fruits (like kiwifruit, banana, and pineapple) are perfect bedtime snacks – nutritious powerhouses rich in sleep-inducers (tryptophan, melatonin, magnesium) and devoid of sleep antagonists (fat, caffeine, spice, and alcohol).
Hungry before hitting the sack but worried that bedtime snacking might affect your health, your weight, and your sleep? Late night snacks have been vilified for causing weight gain and insomnia. At the same time, hunger pangs just before hitting the sack might leave you sleepless. Can eating a fruit, an all-natural powerhouse of nutrition, be a way out of this catch 22? Before we answer this, let’s see how food affects sleep quality.
Food And Sleep
Anyone who’s had trouble sleeping at night because of a late night coffee or a heavy meal would have first-hand experience of the effect of food on sleep. There’s obviously a connection between what you eat and good sleep, so here are the chemical components at play.
Studies show that while substances like caffeine act as stimulants, some foods contains an amino acid called tryptophan which is made available to the brain by carbohydrates and which helps you sleep. This is the reason why food rich in carbohydrates make you drowsy. Group B vitamins are also useful in inducing sleep. The science behind the food and sleep connection is still emerging, but existing studies point out that sleep quality improves through a balanced diet comprising fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein.1
Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland in the brain and helps in maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm. It plays an important role in regulating the sleep–wake cycles. Food rich in melatonin is usually recommended before bedtime. On the other hand, food rich in caffeine, tobacco and alcohol can reduce melatonin production and thus negatively affects sleep.2
Is Bedtime Snacking Unhealthy?
Having the last heavy meal two to three hours before bedtime is normally recommended. That said, going to bed hungry is also not a good idea. A small, healthy snack, if you are hungry at bedtime, won’t hurt much. In fact, it might even help you sleep better!3
Fruits are perhaps your best go-to food at night because they do not contain any fat, caffeine, spice, or alcohol – all of which you must strictly avoid at night!
So now that you can get away with some fruit power before bedtime, time to dig deeper. Fruits that contain tryptophan, melatonin, or other nutrients that induce sleep work best when it comes to bedtime snacks.
Kiwifruit is a great option if you are having trouble sleeping. A study showed that eating kiwifruits one hour before bedtime significantly increased sleep quality.4
Banana is a wonder fruit that also contains tryptophan and magnesium, both important for quality sleep. Eaten along with almonds, it can help you sleep better.5
Studies show that cherries are a rich source of melatonin.6 A handful of cherries can induce sleep and thus make a great bedtime snack.
Pineapples are a good source of melatonin so you can indulge in these tropical fruits guilt-free at bedtime.7
According to naturopathy, fruits can be eaten at any time after a gap of three hours from the previous and next meal. The key is to not mix it with any other food.8 Ayurveda too strictly prohibits mixing fruit with anything else, especially with sugar as it can ferment within the stomach and cause acidity and indigestion.
When Fruits Are A No-No
There is a general belief that those with diabetes should avoid eating fruits. This is a myth because fruits come packed with natural sugars, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which are great for you. Just ensure you keep tabs on the quantity.9
Citrus fruits should be avoided by those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) not only at night but also during the day.10
While fresh fruits can satisfy late-night hunger pangs, canned fruits are a strict no-no for anyone. The high artificial sugar content in canned fruits messes with the body’s blood-sugar balance essential for quality sleep.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Peuhkuri, Katri, Nora Sihvola, and Riitta Korpela. “Diet promotes sleep duration and quality.” Nutrition research 32, no. 5 (2012): 309-319.|
|2.||↑||Melatonin, University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|3.||↑||8 secrets to a good night’s sleep, Harvard Medical School.|
|4.||↑||Lin, Hsiao-Han, and Su-Chen Fang. “Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 20, no. 2 (2011): 169.|
|5.||↑||Set yourself up for sound slumber with these calming foods and beverages, National Sleep Foundation.|
|6.||↑||Burkhardt, Susanne, Dun Xian Tan, Lucien C. Manchester, Rüdiger Hardeland, and Russel J. Reiter. “Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus).” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49, no. 10 (2001): 4898-4902.|
|7.||↑||Sae‐Teaw, Manit, Jeffrey Johns, Nutjaree Pratheepawanit Johns, and Suphat Subongkot. “Serum melatonin levels and antioxidant capacities after consumption of pineapple, orange, or banana by healthy male volunteers.” Journal of pineal research 55, no. 1 (2013): 58-64.|
|8.||↑||Bakhru, H. K. Naturopathy for Longevity. Jaico Publishing House, 1999.|
|9.||↑||Myth: I Can’t Eat Fruit if I have Diabetes, Diabetes UK.|
|10.||↑||Diet Changes for GERD, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.|