Doze Control: Eat Right and You'll Sleep Like a Baby
Eat Right, Sleep Better
Do you toss and turn during the night instead of sleeping soundly? If so,
your battle with insomnia might start at the dining table, not in the
A cup of coffee or tea or a glass of cola are quick pick-me-ups
that might undermine your sleep. Even small amounts of caffeine (like the
amount in a chocolate doughnut) can affect your sleep, especially if you are
sensitive to caffeine. Try eliminating all caffeine-containing beverages. If
you feel and sleep better after two weeks of being caffeine-free, then avoid
caffeine permanently. You can try adding back one or two cups after the
two-week trial, but cut back if sleep problems reappear.
As for alcohol, a nightcap might make you sleepy at first, but
in the end you'll sleep less soundly and wake up more tired. Alcohol and other
depressants suppress a phase of sleeping called REM (rapid eye movement) during
which most of your dreaming occurs. Less REM is associated with more night
awakenings and restless sleep. One glass of wine with dinner probably won't
hurt, but avoid drinking any alcohol within two hours of bedtime. And never mix
alcohol with sleeping pills!
Sleep-Friendly Table Tactics
Big dinners make you temporarily drowsy but prolong digestion,
which interferes with a good night's sleep. It's best to eat your biggest meal
before midafternoon and have a light evening meal of 500 calories or less.
Include some chicken, extra-lean meat or fish at dinner to help curb
middle-of-the-night snack attacks.
Spicy foods can contribute to sleep problems: Dishes seasoned
with garlic, chilies, cayenne, or other hot spices can cause nagging heartburn
or indigestion. Avoid spicy foods at dinner. Gas-forming foods and hurried
eating also cause abdominal discomfort, which in turn interferes with sound
sleep. Limit your intake of gas-forming foods to the morning hours, and
thoroughly chew food to avoid gulping air.
Bedtime Snacks: a Great Alternative to Sleeping Pills
A high-carbohydrate snack, such as crackers and fruit or toast
and jam, triggers the release of a brain chemical called serotonin, which aids
sleep. And although the traditional glass of warm milk, a protein-rich
beverage, probably doesn't affect serotonin levels, the warm liquid soothes and
relaxes you and makes you feel full, which might help facilitate sleep.
A new product on the market called 5-Hydroxy-L-tryptophan, or
5-HTP, is touted as a building block for serotonin, which is a mood elevator,
brain stimulant, and sleep enhancer. However, since its safety is questionable
and no optimal dose has been established, you're better off raising serotonin
levels naturally with high-carbohydrate snacks.
Curbing the Midnight Snack Attack
Do you awaken in the middle of the night, unable to fall back
to sleep unless you eat something? These midnight snack cravings may be
triggered by hunger, or they may just be habit. In either case, your best bet
is to break the cycle. Try eating more during the day, and stop rewarding your
stomach by feeding it every time it wakes you up. Instead, read a book, drink a
glass of water, or ignore the craving. It takes up to two weeks to break a
midnight snack habit.