Eat Right at Night

Along with physical changes that occur as we get older, changes to our sleep patterns are a part of the normal aging process.  As we age, we tend to have a harder time falling asleep. Yet sleep is just as important to our physical and emotional health as it was when we were younger.  One way we can help ourselves sleep better is by changing our diet.

Revamping our diet, as well as the time we eat, can go a long way towards improving the quality of our sleep.  Watching what we put in our bodies in the hours before bedtime is very important. There are some foods that, when consumed too close to bedtime, could be stealing our slumber.  And there are others that can make us sleepy.

A few of the foods that might assist us in a good night’s sleep are cherries, bananas, spinach and almonds.  All varieties of cherries are naturally high in melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. Bananas are packed with potassium and magnesium, two minerals that promote muscle relaxation.  In fact, magnesium deficiencies are related to restless leg syndrome and nighttime muscle cramps – two conditions that can certainly interfere with sleep. Spinach, in addition to being rich in potassium and magnesium, is also high in calcium which helps the body generate melatonin.  And almonds are full of magnesium and calcium.

Though a drink or two before bed can make you drowsy, research shows that drinking alcohol makes you more likely to wake during the night.  As the alcohol starts to wear off, your body typically comes out of deep sleep and back into REM sleep, which is much easier to wake from. That is why you often wake up after just a few hours of sleep after you have been drinking.

Eating heavy foods and big meals late in the evening can also affect how well you sleep as they overload your digestive system.  It is best to eat dinner as early as possible and give the food time to digest before you go to bed. Your body is not designed to be digesting food when it is sleeping.

In addition, gastroesophageal reflux disease which causes heartburn symptoms, can be affected by big meals late at night.  You don’t want to eat so much that indigestion, discomfort, or pain makes sleep difficult. You also don’t want caffeine in your system to interfere with your sleep so limit your intake of coffee, tea, soda and chocolate late in the day.

It is a popular myth that eating late at night causes you to gain weight.  As long as you are not exceeding your calorie needs for the entire day, it won’t affect the scale.  What it can affect is your ability to sleep well. And your ability to sleep well impacts your metabolism in that it is slower when you are sleep deprived.  It is your slower metabolism that could affect your weight.


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