When you can’t sleep at night, can you drive away insomnia by eating the right food? Find out if drinking alcohol or a glass of milk helps.
What you eat may potentially affect how you sleep. To improve sleep quality and get a good night’s rest, it is important to eat food that relaxes your mind and body, rather than food that may cause discomfort.
In Singapore, a recent study showed that one in three people are sleep-deprived, which, in turn, badly affects health.
Quality of sleep has a huge impact on daily life as being sleep-deprived can affect a person’s productivity and concentration at work. When people are unable to sleep, it also affects their emotional well-being, potentially causing irritability and moodiness. Numerous studies have found a relationship between the quantity and quality of sleep and various health problems such as the increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and depression.
Other studies also indicate that dietary factors can play a part in getting a better night’s rest i.e. consuming certain foods can help promote rest and relaxation.
Avoid eating high-fat content and heavy, large meals at night. Consuming a heavy meal in the evening or right before bedtime may cause indigestion and heartburn, which can disrupt sleep since the meal is more difficult to break down and will take a longer time to digest. Similarly, lying down on a full stomach can also cause indigestion and heartburn.
Hunger in the middle of the night may interfere with sleep. To avoid hunger, a light bedtime snack before bedtime can promote sleep. A glass of milk, some biscuits, a small piece of dark chocolate or a piece of fruit would be ideal.
It is recommended to consume any meals at least three hours before going to bed.
Small amounts of alcohol before sleep can help you fall asleep but drinking too much can cause insomnia. Do not consume excessive alcohol. Having too much alcohol can suppress the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state that is essential for a good night’s rest. Alcohol is also dehydrating and may leave you feeling thirsty, which can disrupt your sleep.
Drinking a glass of warm milk before bed may help you relax and stay asleep. Try drinking milk before sleep. Dairy products contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid, which helps in the production of sleep-inducing brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin. People with low serotonin levels may have difficulty sleeping. Dairy products are also a good source of calcium, which helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. It is important to note that these may not be suitable for individuals who may be lactose intolerant.
Beverages or foods that contain caffeine (e.g. chocolates, coffee, and soft drinks) can affect sleep. Watch your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects people, depending on the amount consumed. If you are sensitive to caffeine and you want to sleep tight, reduce your intake or limit consumption to mornings only.
A common way of helping with sleep is to have a cup of herbal tea. Teas such as chamomile, passionflower, and valerian may potentially have a sedative effect, which will help you sleep better.
Try to avoid drinking too much fluid too close to bedtime, so as to reduce the need to go to the bathroom during the night, especially for individuals with urinary incontinence.
Ms Ong Yawei is a Senior Dietitian at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She completed her Master of Dietetics at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. She specialises in the nutritional management of surgical patients and individuals with gastrointestinal diseases.
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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