By Michele Turcotte
Eating the right foods can help you sleep more soundly at night. A well-balanced diet should include two particular nutrients that promote a peaceful sleep: magnesium (found in meats, seafood, greens, and dairy products) and the B vitamins (meats, whole grains, bananas, beans, potatoes and broccoli). Add these foods to your diet and you may have sweeter dreams in the blink of an eye.
Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole grains and starches, encourage sleep by triggering the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that alleviates depression, calms the mind and helps to regulate the brain's sleep/wake cycle. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates at dinner, including brown rice, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, and whole grain bread.
Consume adequate amounts of the minerals magnesium, calcium and zinc. They are involved in nerve stimulation, as well as muscle contraction and relaxation. Zinc and magnesium may help to alleviate leg cramps (in general) or restless leg syndrome (RLS), a fidgety, achy feeling in the legs that makes it difficult to lie still at night. In turn, poor sleep can deplete the body of magnesium, which may cause additional anxiety in the evening. Magnesium-rich foods include green, leafy vegetables like spinach, whole grains, peas, nuts and dried beans.
B Vitamins and Herbs
Vitamin B6, thiamin and folic acid may improve sleep because they regulate amino acids, including tryptophan, which is necessary to produce serotonin. Vitamin B rich foods include lean red meat, beans and whole grains. B vitamins may also influence the action of melatonin, a hormone-like compound believed to regulate sleep patterns. For that reason, some people take melatonin supplements. However, while the over-the-counter compound may alleviate temporary insomnia or jet lag, long-term use can cause grogginess and/or depression.
Some herbs have soothing properties that may promote sleep. End your day with an herbal tea such as chamomile, passionflower, rosemary or valerian.
Foods and Eating Habits That Disrupt Sleep
Avoid eating a large meal before bed. Instead, eat small, frequent meals throughout the day that contain a mix of complex carbohydrates and lean protein, such as a 1/2 turkey sandwich, a cup of fruit and decaf tea. Caffeine, alcohol, and fatty (or fried) and spicy foods can all disrupt your sleep.
Foods for Better Sleep originally published on LIVESTRONG.COM
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About this Author
Michele Turcotte is a registered, licensed dietitian, owner of A Perfect Plate, Inc., and a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has over 12 years of experience in clinical and corporate settings, and has extensive experience in one-on-one diet counseling and meal planning. She has written freelance food and nutrition articles for Trouve Publishing, Inc., since 2004.
By Michele Turcotte