Dinner is usually the last meal you eat before heading to bed. Time it poorly or eat something "unfriendly" towards sleep, and you could be lying awake, uncomfortable and anxious. Studies have also shown that what you eat is just as important as when you eat it.
Here are some tips for designing the ideal meal for sleep, satisfaction and nutrition.
Load Up on Good Bedtime Proteins
Other foods that help you sleep are proteins that contain tryptophan, an important amino acid that helps with serotonin production. You can most famously find this in turkey, but it's also present in milk and even hazelnuts. Protein will also keep you feeling full for longer, so you're less likely to wake up hungry shortly after dropping off to sleep.
Eat Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens are good sources of magnesium, which can help you relax. Kale, spinach, collard greens and arugula are all good choices. Even lettuce has compounds that are known to cause a bit of a sedative effect, so it looks like salads make for healthy eating in more ways than one!
Don't Eat Too Late
A late dinner for two may sound romantic, but eating right before bed is a recipe for disaster. Heavy or spicy foods — or simply overeating — can also make you uncomfortable and prone to acid reflux, so experts recommend eating dinner at least three hours before your regular bedtime. Plus, You won't burn many calories while you're sleeping, so a large meal can lead to weight gain over time.
Try Fruit for Melatonin
Fruits like cherries, pineapples and bananas are thought to naturally increase melatonin levels, so these make a fine substitute for desserts like baked goods and ice cream. Blitz them up into a bedtime smoothie, or try them as a unique addition to a dinner salad if you're feeling creative. Other foods to help you sleep include melatonin-laden ingredients like mustard, walnuts, ginger, corn and rice.
Lay Off the Sweets
Having a dessert right before bedtime can actually keep you wide awake. When you pump up your blood sugar, your body decreases production of melatonin, a hormone known to trigger sleepiness. This means you get a sugar high and a delay in feeling tired — a lose-lose combination for bedtime. Try having your daily dessert after lunch or during afternoon tea time instead.
Sip a Cup of Tea
Instead of a sweet dessert, try a post-dinner ritual of a warm cup of herbal tea instead. Chamomile, passion fruit and a "sleepy time" tea with valerian can all calm your nervous system and help you relax. Adding a touch of honey as a sweetener may also help your brain absorb all the tryptophan from your dinner, too.
The Ideal Dinner
A great starter menu would be a leafy salad topped with sliced cherries and crushed hazelnuts. For the main course, dine on roasted turkey with a side of rice and creamed kale, followed by a cup of chamomile tea and honey for a light dessert. Is your mouth watering yet?