If pre-race jitters are taking a toll on your eight hours of shut-eye, you may want to consider eating your way to a better night’s rest. There are certain foods that can hinder sleep and others that can help. Studies report more than 100 million Americans suffer from some form of insomnia, so knowing which foods to eat and avoid and at which times during the day is key to getting those 40 winks.
Foods to Eat:
Tryptophans and Calcium
> Tryptophan is an amino acid that our bodies convert to melatonin and serotonin – elements considered to induce sleep. Calcium is also known to release serotonin
> Milk, cheese, potatoes, wheat, seafood, beans, sesame seeds, oatmeal, apricots, bananas, turkey, tahini
> Carbs act as a natural sleep aid by stimulating the pancreas to secrete insulin. When this happens, some amino acids that interact with tryptophan leave the bloodstream and enter muscle cells, which causes an increase in the tryoptophan levels in the bloodstream and results in an increase in the serotonin levels. (Think food coma after a Thanksgiving meal)
> Bread, pasta, cereal, rice, potatoes
> Vegetables rich in chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, is rumored to contain an opium-related substance which acts as a natural sleep aid.
> Lettuce particularly has a reputation for promoting healthy sleeping
Vitamins and Minerals:
> Magnesium relaxes our muscles and acts as a natural sleep aid to fight involuntary twitches and cramps that keep us awake.
> Sunflower seeds, wheat bran, almonds, cashews
Foods to Avoid:
> Caffeine – it’s a no-brainer, but this stimulant boosts the activity of your nervous system
> Alcohol – though it may make you sleepy at first, alcohol can disrupt sleeping patterns and cause frequent awakenings
> Spicy Foods – a little kick to the palate before bed may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable when lying down, especially if you’re prone to heartburn. Studies have also suggested spicy meals elevate body temperatures during the first stages of our sleep cycles and impair a good night’s rest.