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Carbs That Can Help You Sleep

By Carly Schuna ; Updated April 18, 2017

Almost 70 percent of Americans experience frequent sleep problems, according to Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. Those issues can range from insomnia to chronic snoring to sleep apnea. Making healthy choices every day has a significant positive impact on sleep quality, and even something as small as eating nutrient-rich carbs in the evening can help you sleep more soundly.

Warm Oatmeal

Rolled oats are a healthy whole-grain source of complex carbs, and it turns out they make a smart bedtime snack as well as a staple morning meal. Oatmeal contains the minerals phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, silicon and potassium, all of which can help promote a good night’s sleep. Since large meals can impair your sleep quality and make it difficult to drift off to dreamland, keep your bowl of oats to a moderate serving size -- 1 cup of cooked cereal or less -- and eat it at least two hours before bedtime.

Glass of Milk

According to a research review published in 2014 in the journal “Sports Medicine,” people who ate solid foods prior to bedtime took longer to fall asleep than people who drank liquids. Part of the reason for that may be that liquids are more quickly and easily digested and less likely to cause gas or heartburn. Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist, recommends drinking fat-free or low-fat milk before bedtime. One glass of skim provides 12 grams of carbs.

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Leafy Greens

Another rich source of calcium, leafy greens are a low-calorie, high-carb and high-fiber nutritional powerhouse. Kale, mustard greens, spinach and other dark leafy greens enable your brain to manufacture melatonin, a compound that acts as a natural sedative. If plain raw greens are too bitter on their own for you, saute them in a small amount of oil to create a milder taste and texture.

Fresh Fruit

Bauer also highlights fruits as stellar bedtime snacks, particularly bananas, mangoes, papayas, grapes, oranges, plums and grapefruit. All fruits contain simple carbs, which generally have higher glycemic index values than complex carbs. According to the “Sports Medicine” review, higher-GI meals and snacks significantly reduce the time it takes someone to fall asleep when contrasted with low-GI foods. A whole piece of fruit, a bowl of fruit salad or even a glass of 100 percent fruit juice can make a healthy and appropriate bedtime snack.

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