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Foods to Avoid If You Are Having Insomnia

Submitted by Serena Mason on July 19, 2010

The food we eat affects our bodies in a number of ways. There are some foods which negatively influence our sleep cycles, while there are some that have a sleep-inducing effect.

Caffeine is a stimulant which affects different people in different ways. The effect of caffeine depends on the rate at which the body is able to eliminate it. For some people, even small quantities of caffeine such as that contained in chocolate or decaffeinated coffee can result in insomnia. Alcohol also leads to impairment of sleep.

It contributes to the production of adrenaline and also interferes with the passage of tryptophan to the brain. The brain depends upon tryptophan for the release of serotonin, which is an essential neurotransmitter that triggers sleep. Therefore alcohol has an inhibitory effect on serotonin as well.  One should also avoid eating very heavy meals or meals with too many ingredients in them at night.

This could exert a strain on the digestive process and result in discomfort during the night. There are also some other foods which are known to aggravate insomnia. These include spicy foods, carbonated drinks, refined carbohydrates, preservatives, additives, tea, stimulant drugs, canned foods, and sugary foods which elevate blood sugar levels and result in increased energy levels.

It is also advisable to avoid foods that cause heartburn such as fatty foods, foods containing monosodium glutamate such as Chinese food and high-protein foods which disrupt the synthesis of serotonin and cause alertness. Cigarette smoking or use of other tobacco products is also likely to hamper sleep as nicotine serves as a neurostimulant which can contribute to sleep problems.

On the other hands, there are some foods which are known to induce sleep.

Foods that contain complex carbohydrates such as breads and crackers increase the level of serotonin and hence are sleep enhancing. One of the most popular remedies for sleeplessness is a glass of warm milk and honey. Tryptophan is contained in milk and this induces sleep, when converted to serotonin. It is also helpful in preventing waking. Lettuce is another food that is known for encouraging good sleep. Lettuce is known to contain an opium related substance which is present in combination with traces of hyoscyarnin, an anti-cramping agent. This is known to promote healthy sleep and hence lettuce is recommended for those with sleep disorders. Lettuce juice, mixed with some lemon juice is considered to be an effective natural home remedy for insomnia.
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