I is for Insomnia



I | Insomnia

by Lindsey Herr, Dietetic Intern

Food affects our sleep, and sleep affects our food. They are partners in crime and in justice and it is important to know how they interact.

Foods that make you sleepy:

  • Tryptophan: Helps to create serotonin

    • Chickpeas (hummus), walnuts, turkey

  • Carbohydrates: Help serotonin get to the brain and make us sleepy. In part, can make us sleepy due to blood sugar dips leading to a tired feeling.

  • Calcium: Helps to use the tryptophan

    • Dairy, kale, collard greens

  • Vitamin B6: Helps to make melatonin and serotonin

  • Cherry juice: Tart cherries naturally boost melatonin levels in the body

  • Chamomile: Relaxes nerves and muscles


Foods that keep you up:

  • Alcohol ‘Nightcap’: Disrupts your body’s internal clock and can make you sleepy when you normally would not be

  • Caffeine too late in the day: Differs from person to person, but try to avoid caffeine at least after 2pm, even earlier if you are having trouble.

  • Spicy foods: Capsaicin raises body temperature as well as increases heartburn - both lead to worse sleep.

  • Simple sugars: Sweets and packaged foods will spike blood sugar and can cause trouble sleeping if eaten too close to bedtime.


Benefits of more sleep:

Sleeping more hours of the day means you need less food as energy. An individual who goes to bed at 11pm and wakes up at 6am, is going to have healthier habits and less cravings than someone who went to bed at 12am and wakes up at 5am. Sleep provides focus, energy, and boosts mood. We should aim for 7-9 hours a night. It is important to note that sleep does not roll over...sleeping extra on the weekends does not count towards your weekday sleeping hours.

If you have trouble winding down, get in bed a half hour before you need to be asleep and read a book - no phones! This will help your body adjust to get ready for a good night’s rest.

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