What you eat and how you sleep, go hand in hand. Certain foods and beverages will perk you up (hi, coffee!), while others will send you scrambling to find the nearest nap spot. And it’s not just huge meals and fast food grub that can cause you to nod off midday: Seemingly healthy foods can make you drowsy, too. If you’ve been feeling exceptionally tired after meals lately, you may want to consider limiting these five foods during the day.
Catching up on your sleep may be as easy as tweaking your diet. Add these sleep-inducing snacks to your grocery list for less tossing and turning — and don’t forget about the sneaky energizers that mess with your shuteye.
By eating certain sleep-inducing foods each night, there is a possibility that you will experience better sleep. Now, this does not mean engorging these foods will guarantee you more sleep. Actually, eating too much of any kind of food will hurt your chances of getting a good night’s rest. However, with moderation and a healthy lifestyle, eating these foods can help you get the hours of sleep you’ve been craving. So, what are the foods that might help you sleep?
Why Do People Feel Tired After Eating?
Some types of foods and the timing of meals can also make people feel especially tired after a meal. A decrease in energy levels after eating is called postprandial somnolence.
Researchers have different theories about the cause of tiredness after eating, but they generally agree that it is a natural response and not usually a cause for concern.
Feeling tired, or having difficulty concentrating, after a meal is relatively common. A person may feel particularly tired, depending on what, when, and how much they ate.
Foods That Make You Sleepy
Honey helps you sleep because it contains glucose which lowers levels of orexin, a neurotransmitter that raises your level of alertness. One teaspoon of honey before bed is also proven to help restock our liver with glycogen – or the fuel we need to make it through the night without food. If you can make it raw honey, that’s a plus!
Tryptophan is an essential sleep-inducing amino acid present in some foods (read on through our list to find out which ones contain it). The natural sugars in honey also encourage sleep by carrying tryptophan through the bloodstream and into the brain.
The tried-and-true mug of chamomile tea before bed is a well-known sleep remedy for a reason. The chamomile herb has calming effects on the brain and body – and a warm cup of (non-caffeinated) tea before bed may be just what you need to help you drift off to a peaceful, deep sleep.
That glass of warm milk our parents gave us as children before bed did do something good. Dairy is a natural source of the sleep-inducing tryptophan amino acid. Tryptophan helps you sleep by boosting melatonin, the chemical that promotes a regular sleep cycle (2). And aside from the science, warm milk has traditionally been enjoyed before bed as it can provide a calming effect. If you’re tossing and turning, unable to sleep, try a glass of warm milk to help you settle.
Delicious and nutritious, bananas are high in potassium, a mineral that is essential to achieving a deep night’s sleep. Bananas are also nature’s sedative, as they contain both tryptophan and magnesium. Grab a banana before you go to sleep to benefit from this natural mineral hit while alleviating any feelings of hunger before bedtime.
A handful of nuts are a great bedtime snack, as they boost serotonin levels in the brain and are an excellent source of magnesium and tryptophan. Walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds contain the highest levels of tryptophan.
Beans naturally contain a B vitamin complex. B vitamins have long been used to treat insomnia and help to alleviate stress and anxiety. If you’re looking for a natural vitamin B complex, try beans with your dinner or as a bedtime snack; they contain a nice little combination of B vitamins like B6, niacin, and folate, which help the brain in many ways.
If you’re feeling a little restless before bedtime, reach for a piece of whole-grain bread. Whole grains encourage the production of insulin, which helps neurons to process tryptophan.
These grains encourage insulin production that result in tryptophan activity in the brain. They also have magnesium which is said to help you stay asleep. When magnesium levels are too low, you are more likely to wake up during the night.
Cherries are high in melatonin, and a 2018 study by the American Journal of Therapeutics found cherries to help increase sleep quality and duration in both women and men. Keep cherry juice in your fridge, for a refreshing bedtime drink.
The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to increase your melatonin intake, recommends Michelle Dudash, a registered dietician. Cherries, along with nuts and oats, are a natural source of melatonin. When eaten regularly, they can help regulate your sleep cycle.
Are you craving some dessert after dinner? We’ve got just the thing – a small bowl of yogurt, topped with some delicious oats or whole grains. Yoghurt contains calcium, which is needed for processing sleep-inducing hormones tryptophan and melatonin. What’s more, it’s a delicious alternative to ice cream (for those among us with a sweet tooth).
Calcium processes the hormones that help you sleep, tryptophan and melatonin. Calcium, of course, can be found in anything dairy-related if you don’t like yogurt. Other things you can try are milk or cheese and crackers.
Ever heard the saying that turkey makes you sleepy? This proves to hold some truth, as poultry such as turkey and chicken is high in tryptophan. If you’re feeling hungry before bedtime, nibble on a piece of lean chicken breast, or put a slice of turkey on a piece of whole-grain bread for a strategic, before-bed snack.
Eggs are also a good source of tryptophan. Eat a hard-boiled egg alongside a cup of tea with honey to get your sweet dreams started.
Vitamin B6 is abundant in fish, with salmon, tuna, and halibut having the most. B6 is what makes melatonin, which is usually triggered by being in the dark. By eating fish for dinner, you can give that melatonin a head start before turning out the lights.
Like yogurt, this leafy green is also rich in calcium which is important in making those sleep hormones go to work.
Chickpeas may just be the miracle legume; proven to help keep your appetite in check, they’re also high in vitamin B6, which plays an important role in helping your body produce serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Try incorporating chickpeas into your dinner, or whizz up some homemade hummus to keep in the fridge for a late-night snack.
Leafy greens are beneficial for all areas of health, including sleep, as they contain high levels of calcium. There are many ways that leaves can be enjoyed besides just salads, too. If you’re craving something salty and crunchy in the evening, try baking some kale chips in the oven!
Grapes are an example of a fruit that contains naturally-occurring melatonin, the chemical promoting restful sleep. Keep some grapes in your fridge for a cool snack through the summer. And by grapes, we do mean the fruit form – contrary to popular belief, and wine does not help you sleep!
It may be a favourite for breakfast, but you might want to pair a bowl of oatmeal with some coffee to make it through the day. “Grains in oatmeal trigger insulin production much like whole-grain bread,” says Cynthia Pasquella, CCN, CHLC, CWC. “They raise your blood sugar naturally and make you feel sleepy. Oats are also rich in melatonin, which relaxes the body and helps you fall asleep.”
Not just a breakfast food, a bowl of oats or an oatmeal cookie is a perfect evening snack. As well as helping you feel full with their carbohydrates, oats are another natural source of melatonin.
“Figs pack potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “These minerals help with blood flow and muscle contraction, which are key for falling asleep.” Besides crushing your dessert craving, each fig also packs some additional fibre that’ll keep you full.
Pistachios hit the sleep-inducing jackpot, packing in protein, vitamin B6, and magnesium, all of which contribute to better sleep. Refrain from a shell-cracking frenzy, though. “Don’t exceed a 1-ounce portion of nuts,” London warns. “Anything too high in calories can have the reverse effect of keeping you awake!”
Since dehydration can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep (not to mention your energy levels overall!), choosing watery fruits like melon can make up for any deficits. London also recommends thirst-quenching apples, oranges, and pears.
Just a handful of these and you’ll be dozing off in no time. Pasquella says almonds contain tryptophan and magnesium, which both help to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while also steadying your heart rhythm.
Almond or peanut butter also pack in filling protein too. Spread it on graham crackers, a banana, or that sweet potato toast. Again, keep your dollop under a tablespoon, so you’re not feeling too stuffed before heading to bed.
No surprise here, but herbal tea has tons of snooze-promoting properties. “Chamomile tea is excellent for calming nerves before bedtime,” says London. “It’s also hydrating and stomach-soothing, same as ginger tea.”
The battle of the turkey is still being fought today. Some experts say it has no effect on sleep, and the annual Thanksgiving food coma is caused by the amount of food you eat, not the bird itself. But, as Dr. Oz Garcia, MS, PhD says, turkey does have tryptophan in it, which gets metabolized into serotonin and melatonin, two of the main chemicals responsible for your dozing off.
Potassium and magnesium in bananas are to blame for the sleepy feeling. They help relax your muscles and send you off to dreamland. Instead, reach for orange because its citrus scent can be energizing.
Carbs cause your blood glucose levels to jump quickly (that’s why you get a sudden burst of energy). But when these glucose levels start to drop back down, you’ll likely experience an energy crash that will leave you ready for a nap. Processed carbs (like white bread) are especially problematic, while whole-grain bread is less likely to leave you feeling sluggish.
Sorry, this is bad news for those with a sweet tooth. Even though dark chocolate has caffeine in it, it also contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help you relax.
White rice has a high glycemic index. This simply means that it will give you a natural increase in blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn, helps tryptophan go to work in your brain faster.
How Much Food Do You Eat?
A person may be more likely to experience postprandial sleepiness after a large meal.
People who eat larger lunches may experience more of an afternoon slump than those who eat less at midday. Eating causes blood sugar to rise, and a dip in energy may follow.
Other factors can contribute to tiredness after eating:
- poor sleep at night, which can lead to tiredness throughout the day
- drinking alcohol with a meal, especially during the daytime
When You Eat Meals?
A person’s natural body clock, or circadian rhythm, can affect how they feel after eating.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that people naturally have a lull in energy 2 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. This may explain the tradition of taking a nap, or siesta, after the midday meal.
Daylight and darkness are essential in regulating the circadian rhythm, but the timing of meals may also affect.
Many people experience a dip in energy after eating. Large meals and meals rich in protein and carbohydrates are most likely to make people feel sleepy.
In most cases, a dip in energy after eating is a natural biological response.
However, if this is getting in the way of daily activities, a person may benefit from changing the contents and timing of their meals. If these types of changes do not help, see a doctor.