Have you ever eaten a ton of carbs — we're talking pasta with all the free bread — and immediately wanted to crawl into bed? If so, you might be on to something.
You may already know that carbs, one of the three macronutrients (the other two are protein and fat), are the body's first source of energy, but eating carbs, at night specifically, can help you fall asleep faster, according to Rizwana Sultana, MD, assistant professor of pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Why Eating Carbs at Night Can Help You Fall Asleep
Carbohydrates "quickly raise [your] blood sugar and help with falling asleep," Dr. Sultana said. Carbs also boost both your tryptophan (an essential amino acid that leads to the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps you fall asleep) and serotonin levels, according to Dr. Sultana.
Although carbs can help you fall asleep, there's a caveat. "One must be careful in eating carbs and going to bed as it can lead to weight gain and sleep disturbance with snoring and sleep apnea," she explained. To circumvent this, Dr. Sultana recommends consuming "a moderate quantity of complex carbs like whole grains" in order to fall asleep.
Other Foods That Help You Fall Asleep
Carbs aren't the only foods that can improve your sleep. Foods such as fish, which is high in vitamin B6, help with melatonin production, she said. Bananas are also a great choice because they contain high levels of magnesium and potassium "which may help muscle relaxation and improve sleep," according to Dr. Sultana. Foods rich in calcium like yogurt, cheese, and kale are also good for sleep because they promote melatonin.
You can also try eating honey before bed as it "promotes sleep by reducing wake-promoting hormones," Dr. Sultana said. Nuts are another great option because they have high levels of magnesium and tryptophan. "Overall, food high in tryptophan, serotonin, calcium, magnesium, and B6 can help promote sleep," Dr. Sultana said.
At the end of the day, you'll more than likely have to experiment with what foods work the best for you and improve your sleep. If you are still experiencing trouble falling and staying asleep, we recommend consulting a sleep expert.