Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | So in the interest of giving myself the best chance for a good night’s sleep, I took a look at advice from Eating Well Nutrition Advisory Board member Dr. Rachel Johnson on which foods and drinks can help promote better sleep. Here’s what the research says:
Carbohydrate-Rich Dinners (This one works!): A light bedtime snack can stave off hunger, a known sleep robber. But eating quickly-digested carbs (a.k.a, “high-glycemic-index” or “GI” carbohydrates such as jasmine rice) hours earlier at dinner—might also help. A study found that when healthy sleepers ate carbohydrate-rich suppers of veggies and tomato sauce over rice, they fell asleep significantly faster at bedtime if the meal included high-GI jasmine rice rather than lower-GI long-grain rice.
Warm Milk: Decades ago, scientists looked into this folk remedy and posited that tryptophan, an amino acid in milk (and turkey), might be responsible for its supposed sleep-inducing effects. Earlier research had shown that when tryptophan is released into the brain, it produces serotonin—a serenity-boosting neurotransmitter. But when milk (and other tryptophan-rich foods) were tested, they failed to affect sleep patterns, perhaps because other amino acids in those foods competed with tryptophan to get into the brain.
Herbal Tea: Chamomile, lemon balm, hops and passionflower are all touted for their sleep-promoting properties. You’ll often find them in “sleep-formula” tea blends, but unfortunately their effectiveness hasn’t been proven in clinical studies, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Caffeine: Caffeine affects everyone differently, so if you’re sensitive it might be worth trying to cut down—or limit caffeine to the morning only.
Alcohol: Though a glass of wine may help you fall asleep, excessive alcohol use can make you wake up in the night. One theory is that alcohol suppresses the rapid eye movement a state that’s critical to a good night’s sleep. Drink moderately, if at all; avoid drinking within a few hours of bedtime.
Sleep Supplements: Shelves in supplement stores are stacked with sleep formulas.