Whole books have been written on the subject of foods that are supposed to help you sleep. Let’s take a look at a few examples of the sort of advice that is given regarding ‘sleep’ foods.
‘Have a banana before bed because it is a source of the amino acid tryptophan and may thus help you sleep.’ Quite apart from the fact that there is little scientific evidence that dietary tryptophan helps you sleep, who wants to eat a banana just before bed? They could just as easily have recommended a turkey sandwich, because any protein eaten at any time of the day will provide a source of tryptophan,
‘Avoid spicy foods 4-6 hours before bedtime.’ This conveniently ignores the fact that at least two thirds of the world’s population regularly eat food that we would consider spicy, without any obvious ill-effects on their sleep. Anything that upsets your stomach will affect your sleep, not spicy foods per se.
‘Eating a nutritious breakfast will help you sleep.’ There is no evidence that eating any specific foods for breakfast will have any benefit for sleep.
In fact, the best thing you can do to ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs for sleep and good health is to eat a balanced, varied diet. So as Christmas approaches, remember that overdoing it on turkey and mince pies is probably not the ideal recipe for a good night’s rest!
Dr. Neil Stanley
Dr Neil Stanley is an independent sleep expert who has been involved in research for over 35 years. After starting out at the R.A.F. Institute of Aviation Medicine, he moved on to the University of Surrey's Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, where he was Director of Sleep Research. Today, he travels the world lecturing on various aspects of sleep to both healthcare professionals and the public at large.