If you’ve tried everything to get a good night’s rest, but are still tossing and turning every night, don’t worry — the solution to your lack of shut-eye may actually be found in the kitchen. Eating before bed ensures that your body uses food as fuel instead of your lean muscle stores, but not all midnight snacks are created equal.
The secret to better sleep is (drum roll, please…) a popular breakfast choice: rice cereal with skim milk and a banana. This may sound like a meal for the a.m., but pouring yourself a bowl at night has entirely different effects. Each part of this three-ingredient meal, featured on our list of The 30 Best and Worst Foods To Eat Before Sleep, plays a role in helping you hit the hay. Here’s why.
Emphasis on the skim. Milk that’s higher in fat will take your body longer to digest, and the last thing you want while trying to sleep is for your body to be working overtime. You actually want your body to focus on using the tryptophan found in milk. This amino acid is a precursor for serotonin and melatonin, hormones that can help induce sleep and regulate sleep cycles. Looks like your mom was right about drinking milk before bed!
Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? Eating a high-glycemic carb like rice (or rice cereal), four hours before bed can cut the amount of time it takes to fall asleep in half compared to eating another low-GI food, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. High-glycemic carbs help increase the ratio of sleep-enabling tryptophan in your blood by siphoning off other amino acids to your muscles. With more tryptophan in your brain, your body will get more clear signals that it’s time to power down and go to sleep.
One option for rice cereal is Kellogg's Rice Krispies, which clocks in at just 130 calories, 0 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of sugar per 1 ¼-cup serving. Another option is General Mills Rice Chex, which are 100 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 23 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of sugar per 1-cup serving.
Remember the tryptophan found in skim milk and assisted by rice cereal? It’s in bananas, too. But the sleep-inducing amino acid isn’t the only way this fruit helps get you ready for bed. Bananas also contain potassium and magnesium, both of which benefit your sleep cycle by aiding muscle relaxation.
On top of helping knock you out, eating a banana before bed can also improve the quality of your sleep. A study in the Journal of Research and Medical Sciences found that older adults suffering from insomnia slept better when they had magnesium in their system. Instead of lying awake, they spent more time in bed actually sleeping and found it easier to wake up. Better sleep is just one of the 21 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Eat Bananas.
So try saving this delicious cereal and banana combo for bedtime. Maybe you’ll finally get the deep sleep you’ve been dreaming of.