Why carbs could be the secret to a great night’s sleep

Getting enough good quality sleep is one of the biggest challenges we face in the modern environment. Busy schedules, excessive screen time and high levels of stress mean that many of us have problems with insomnia and other issues that prevent us from sleeping well.

However, experts have found that there’s one surprising thing we can all do to help combat our sleeping problems and not only is it easy, it almost sounds too good to be true. Yes, according to Dr Clare Morrison of Medexpress, eating carbs before bed can help us get a good night’s sleep.

carbs help you sleep
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‘Whilst a high protein, low carb, diet is good for maintaining a healthy weight and sustained energy levels, the opposite approach is best at bedtime. It’s important not to go to bed hungry, but don’t eat protein late at night, as it stimulates the brain,’ Dr Clare explains to you.co.uk.

‘Refined carbs, such as white flour and sugar, should be limited during the day, as they stimulate the production of insulin. In excess, this triggers a host of undesirable metabolic changes, including weight gain.

‘However, in moderation, a boost to the level of insulin can be helpful at bedtime, as it increases the amount of two brain chemicals, tryptophan and serotonin. These in turn cause drowsiness and reduced alertness. This is why we generally feel sleepy after a large meal, and why it is so hard to sleep if we feel hungry.’

In other words, if there ever is a time to have a carb-fuelled meal, it would be clever to do it just before you plan on sleeping. But while the prospect of stuffing our face with carbs before bed sounds absolutely delightful, Dr Clare also highlights that, of course, this is not an excuse to over-eat.

carbs help you sleep
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‘Obviously it’s important not to eat too much, otherwise you would gain weight,’ she adds. ‘However, it does make sense to save up much of your intake of refined carbs until the end of the day, rather than eating them at breakfast time.’

So what kind of carbs are we talking? Dr Clare says ‘starchy foods such as bananas, cereal, sandwiches, and porridge’ – but advises that you go easy on the sugar as it is very refined in these foods, and the subsequent burst of insulin will therefore be too sudden and not sustained.

On the flip side, it is best to avoid carbs that come with caffeine such as chocolate, or anything spicy or fatty that might irritate the digestive system. This means junk food and sweet treats unfortunately do not count. Similarly, alcohol, whilst causing initial drowsiness, soon wears off, causing interrupted sleep later during the night.