Have you ever wondered why some foods make you feel sleepy while others give you a lift? Do you sometimes find yourself dozing off after a big meal or reaching for a sugary snack when you’re tired? In addition to giving us nourishment, the things we eat and drink can pick us up or slow us down. Knowing how food and beverages affect the body can help keep you alert during the day and avoid the agony of sleeplessness at night.
- Snooze Foods and Pick-Me-Ups
Certain foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan that causes sleepiness. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-heavy meals can make you drowsy. Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan, which is why the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or cheese and crackers.
- Nature’s Sleeping Pill
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that regulates sleepiness. It is made in the brain by converting tryptophan first to serotonin and then to melatonin, which is secreted at night by the pineal gland in the brain to induce and maintain sleep. Scientific evidence shows little or no benefit of melatonin in improving sleep. Still, melatonin supplements are widely used as sleep aids.
- The Post-Lunch Dip
Some people experience a temporary lull in alertness in the afternoon. This is known as the post-lunch dip. A large meal can make a person feel sleepy, especially if it’s rich in carbohydrates, but the post-lunch dip is a function of our circadian rhythms . We naturally feel tired at two different times of the day: about 2:00 AM and 2:00 PM. It is this natural dip in alertness that is primarily responsible for the post-lunch dip.
Four out of five adults in America consume at least one serving of coffee, tea, soda or other caffeinated beverage each day, according to NSF’s 2005 Sleep in America poll. Caffeine is a stimulant that works by blocking the action of hormones in the brain that makes us feel sleepy. A