The typical list of foods that promote sleep usually include things like a glass of warm milk and carbs such as cereals, oatmeal, potatoes, rice and pasta that raise your blood sugar levels. However, for women over 50, none of those are very good choices. The lactose in dairy is a problem for a large percentage of the population and even more so for older women. Carbs in the evening aren’t on any nutritionist’s list who councils post-menopausal women on how to lose or even control their weight. There are, however, very good alternatives to help you fall and stay asleep.
Chamomile has been used as an herbal remedy for insomnia for thousands of years. According to an article in Prevention, it calmed down mice as effectively as tranquilizers, and in the only human study on the effectiveness of chamomile, the herb reduced mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder much better than placebo.
Green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens, like dairy products, contain calcium which has been show to promote sleep but they have none of the potential problems you can have with dairy. Low calcium intake isn’t just associated with osteoporosis, but deficiencies are linked to poor sleep quality, as well.
According to Eating Well, fish like salmon, tuna and halibut contain vitamin B6 which is needed to make sleep inducing melatonin.
Chickpeas also boost vitamin B6 and the needed melatonin to induce sleep. Hummus isn’t the only thing you can do with chickpeas. They are great in salads, soups, you can even eat them right out of the can. Chickpeas are loaded with nutrients and all important fiber.
Unsaturated fats will not only boost your heart health but also improve your serotonin level. Walnuts and almonds contain a lot of tryptophan and have their own source of melatonin. Eat a handful of nuts or a tablespoon of almond butter as a late night snack.
Fresh herbs can have a calming effect on the body. Sage and basil contain chemicals that reduce tension and promote sleep. Use them liberally in your evening meals. Not only will they add lots of flavor but help you get a good night’s sleep to boot!
Your body will be working too hard to break down high fat foods like french fries, fried fish, chicken wings and the like for you to get a good night’s rest. Avoid them, period, but especially at night.
Most of us have lived long enough and drank too many glasses of wine enough times to know that alcohol can greatly interfere with a good night’s sleep. If you do intend to drink alcohol in the evening, be sure to drink water to dilute the effects of the alcohol.
While fried foods are hard to digest, high-protein fatty animal meat may be the toughest for our bodies to digest. If you do eat meat at night, select lean cuts and chew well to to make it easier to digest.
Can you say indigestion? While you may have been able to handle the spiciest of meals in younger days, few of us can handle spicy foods, especially in the evening. A spicy meal can cause indigestion and irritate the upper digestive tract. Between the pain and acid reflux, sleep won’t come easily.
While drinking lots of fluids to stay hydrated is a very good thing, too much in the evening means you may wake up two to three times (or more) during the night for a trip to the bathroom. Try to drink most of your liquids during the day and don’t consume any after 8 p.m.
FYI, most milk chocolate contains tyrosine, which is converted into dopamine – a stimulant, so likely to keep you awake, while dark chocolate contains serotonin which relaxes your body and mind. So grab some dark chocolate in the evening. It’s also a “good” fat and, if you keep it to no more than one ounce, fits in anyone’s diet!