March 24, 2016

Eat Right, Sleep Tight!

keep-calm-and-i-love-sleep-food.jpgBy Rheagan Rizio, USC Student, Be Well USC blogger

What you eat affects all aspects of your life. Foods have the power to give you tremendous bursts of energy or make you feel sluggish and slow, to cause weight gain or weight loss, and to either help or hinder sleep.

According to BBC food, foods high in tryptophan are great things to eat before bed. Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps promote the production of melatonin and seratonin, which are brain chemicals that help induce sleep. Tryptophan-rich foods include dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, bananas and honey: warm milk is an especially soothing option, as it contains not only tryptophan but also magnesium and calcium, which may work together to help your body relax. Calcium is found in high quantities in other dairy products as well, and magnesium-rich foods include fish, bananas, spinach and nuts. Herbal teas are another great option to drink before bed, as some types can have a sedative effect.

As for foods which hinder sleep, caffeine is an obvious one that should be avoided near bedtime (as many as 4-6 hours prior to bedtime for optimal sleep), as caffeine is a stimulant. So, though herbal teas (as mentioned above) can have a sedative effect, make sure to check what is in the tea you’re drinking, as some teas (including many green teas) contain caffeine: also avoid less-obvious sources of caffeine before bed, including chocolate and soft drinks (if you take any medications, check these as well: some may contain caffeine). WebMD also recommends that you avoid high-fat foods before bed, as these can disrupt sleep cycles, especially if the meals are particularly heavy and/or spicy. Another one that may affect your sleep? Alcohol. It’s a depressant, so it can help you fall asleep faster, but you’re likely to experience less restful sleep, nightmares, and night sweating.

As for other things not food-related to help you fall asleep, it’s very important to have little to no light in your room: your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark in your room, which will help you sleep better. According to The Huffington Post, it is a good idea to avoid watching TV or using a computer/any other electronics at least an hour before trying to fall asleep, as these electronics alter sleepiness and alertness and also suppress melatonin production. It is thought the main culprit of these sleep-disrupting effects is blue light: if you must use an electronic before bed, consider taking steps to diminish the blue light emitted from the electronic. Android has created an app that blocks it, and physical filters are available for iPhones and computers. Try other activities to relax at bedtime, such as reading a book (a physical book, not one on a light-emitting device), doing light exercise, or journaling.

Hopefully these tips can help you get the best sleep possible for these last 6 weeks of classes. Study hard, sleep well, and you’re sure to rock your finals.