Sleep is essential for good health. Sleep deprivation can lead to various health problems. Eating a satisfying snack before bedtime can help bring on sleep and improve your sleep quality. But, keep in mind that a light snack is best, as eating too much before bed can cause discomfort and heartburn.
Good choices are foods that boost the body’s levels of melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep inducing hormone triggered by darkness. It is produced in the pineal gland in the brain and is found naturally in some foods.
Melatonin is important in regulating your body’s sleep cycle. Foods rich in whole grain carbohydrate, tryptophan, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6 boost melatonin levels.Try the following tasty low calorie snacks for a successful slumber
Whole Grain Crackers with Cheese
Carbohydrate rich snacks boost melatonin levels by increasing the level of tryptophan in the blood. Tryptophan is needed to make serotonin – a brain chemical that helps to create a feeling of well-being and relaxation. Serotonin is a precursor of melatonin. Choose whole grains, as these are rich in sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates and magnesium. Combine with a small serving of cheese, which is a rich source of tryptophan.
Hummus & Vegetable Sticks
Chickpeas in hummus are loaded with tryptophan and vitamin B6, essential for the production of melatonin. Raw vegetables such as cucumber, celery and carrots are the perfect accompaniment, providing complex carbohydrates for a deeper slumber.
Cereal & Milk
A bowl of whole grain cereal before bedtime can improve sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This snack combines two components for a restful sleep – carbohydrate-rich cereal and calcium-rich milk. Milk is a source of calcium and tryptophan. Calcium helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture sleep-inducing melatonin. Additionally, calcium helps regulate muscle movements so, a warm glass of milk to help you sleep is not just an old wives’ tale!
A Slice of Whole Grain Bread with Turkey & Spinach
Turkey is a great source of tryptophan, which may explain the urge to nap after Thanksgiving dinner. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are packed with calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Combine with a slice of whole grain bread to maximize sleep quality.
The rise in blood sugar and insulin after eating carbohydrate rich rice can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep by helping tryptophan enter the brain. In particular, jasmine rice brings on faster sleep. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a meal that included jasmine rice fell asleep faster than when they ate other rice types. Add warm milk, cinnamon and raisins to make a delicious rice pudding.
Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin. Boost your sleep quality by combining banana with calcium-rich milk or yogurt to make a smoothie. Bananas are also a good source of the muscle relaxant potassium. Add a splash of honey for a sweeter taste. The natural sugar found in honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily.
Natural Yogurt Topped with Passion Fruit & Oats
Passion fruit contains Harman alkaloids, which have sedative properties. Passion fruit is also high in iron and potassium – deficiencies in these minerals can lead to sleep problems. Combine it with calcium-rich natural yogurt, and add a complex carbohydrate with a layer of crunchy oats.
Cherry Juice & a Handful of Nuts
Cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boost levels of melatonin. Researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester have found that a glass of cherry juice could make you fall asleep faster. Walnuts contain their own source of melatonin. Almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral needed for quality sleep. A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that low levels of magnesium in the body make it harder to stay asleep.
Chamomile Tea & Dates
Research has shown that chamomile tea increases glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles, and which acts like a mild sedative. Enjoy a soothing cup of chamomile tea with a handful of dates, which are rich in digestion-promoting fiber.
Sweet Potato Wedges
Sweet potatoes provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates and contain the muscle relaxant potassium. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin B6, necessary for the production of melatonin, and magnesium, the relaxation and anti-stress mineral essential for quality sleep.
Bon appetit and sweet dreams!