How does eating certain foods before bed affect your sleep?

Eating sweets late at night can decrease quality of sleep

By Sandra Ali - Anchor/Reporter, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - Is eating before bed keeping you from getting a good night's sleep? Experts said it could depend on what you're eating, not just when you're eating.

For some people, when the clock strikes midnight, it's time to count sheep. For others, their stomach tells them otherwise.

"I'm a snacker," Dan Henry said. "I'll get up in the middle of the night and I'll eat ice cream or I'll eat chocolate or something and I'll go back to bed."

Henry said it takes a toll.

"Once I fell asleep, I'd have trouble staying asleep," Henry said. "I'd notice that I'd have trouble staying asleep and I'd notice that I'd have unusually vivid dreams once I got to sleep. It would be alternate reality, almost, but it would be like it happened in my dream differently from how it happened in real life."

Is late-night snacking really to blame? Sleep expert Dr. Glenn Adams said that's partly true.

"If you eat foods that are sugary, sweet drinks or desserts, stuff like that, those tend to decrease the production of serotonin," Adams said.

Serotonin is a mood-relaxing hormone essential for quality sleep.

"If you have caffeine, a piece of chocolate -- chocolate ice cream and the caffeine is upsetting your sleep -- then you might not be sleeping quite as well," Adams said. "You're going to be more likely to remember your dreams. Typically, the dreams we remember, we wake up."

A better choice would be foods high in melatonin, such as tart cherries, grapes or tomatoes. Dairy and poultry also help promote sleep, experts say.

"Stuff that has tryptophan in it -- turkey, chicken, milk," Adams said.

Experts said a few nuts or sunflower seeds can also make a good bedtime snack, and they're likely easier to have than turkey or chicken.

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