Carbs For Better Sleep?

Before we dive in, lets talk about serotonin really quick. Serotonin is known as the "feel good" neurotransmitter, improving mood and providing a sense of calm. When serotonin is elevated at night, it enables restful sleep, and it just so happens that eating carbs is necessary for the body to synthesize serotonin.

 

So what does that mean? Having carbs at night can help you sleep! In addition to raising serotonin, carbs help lower the stress hormone cortisol which can inhibit sleep when it's elevated at night. Placing higher carbs at night will spike a prolonged release of the hormone insulin, which is an antagonist to cortisol. Adding in some protein will then help to sustain that response and push the cortisol back down so you don't wake in the middle of the night or too early.

 

To recap:

  • Carbs and protein together can help ensure that more tryptophan, an amino acid found in foods like turkey (which is why you get sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner), gets converted into the hormone melatonin which helps with sleep. 
  • The insulin spike from carbs will help to blunt cortisol which can inhibit sleep.

 

So which carbs should you eat at night? Aim for whole food, complex carbs that provide high-quality nutrition, and stay away from refined and process carbs.

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