Truths and misconceptions about the food that brings sleep

A light evening meal can eliminate hunger, a known cause of many insomnia. But if you eat the wrong kind of food you could totally wake up. See what and how to eat and drink before going to bed.

Dr. Rachel Johnson of the EatingWell Nutrition Advisory Board explains which foods help you fall asleep and which foods will bring you sleep problems and possible insomnia. Here’s what the research says:

Carbohydrate-rich dinner

A light evening meal can eliminate hunger, a known cause of many insomnia. But eating fast-breaking carbohydrates, that is. those with a high glycemic index like some types of rice hours before dinner can also help.

Research has shown that when people who have no sleep problems for dinner eat a meal with vegetables and tomato sauce with carbohydrate-rich rice, they fall asleep significantly faster if the meal is prepared from jasmine rice than if they cook longer-grain rice with lower glycemic index. Researchers hypothesize that foods with a high GI stimulate the secretion of higher amounts of insulin, which increases the ratio of tryptophan compared to other amino acids in the blood. Therefore, a larger amount of tryptophan reaches the brain, so people are more sleepy.

Warm milk

A couple of decades ago, scientists examined the effect of a folk remedy – warm milk – on sleep and hypothesized that tryptophan, an amino acid in milk (and turkey), may be responsible for the supposedly hypnotic effect of milk. Namely, previous research has shown that the release of tryptophan into the brain creates serotonin, which calms us down. But when they tested milk (and other foods rich in tryptophan), there was no effect on the sleeping habits of the research participants. Maybe because the amino acids in these foods nullified the effect of tryptophan on the brain. This means that warm milk can keep you warm, but it will not stimulate the secretion of serotonin, which puts you to sleep.

Herbal teas

Lemongrass, chamomile, passionflower and other herbal teas are often found in hypnotic blends. Clinical trials have not yet proven this, but if you have noticed that tea helps you before bed – just keep going. The same tea may not have the same effect on someone else.


Caffeine affects everyone differently. If you are more sensitive, it might be a good idea to reduce your intake of caffeinated beverages or limit them to the morning only. Keep in mind that in addition to coffee, tea and energy drinks, caffeine is also present in chocolate. In addition, sensitivity to caffeine can increase with age, so you should reduce your usual dose with age.


Although a glass of wine could help you fall asleep, excessive drinking can cause you to wake up during the night. According to one theory, alcohol suppresses the REM phase of sleep, which is crucial for the age of sleep.

Herbal sleeping preparations

Shelves in pharmacies are richly supplied with various natural sleeping aids. But an official U.S. study found that half of the 1.6 million who tried them had significantly worsened insomnia. A number of studies have failed to prove either the negative or positive effect of many preparations, such as popular therapies with valerian.

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