Eating… How Does It Effect Sleeping?

I have been blessed with an uncanny ability to fall asleep in 3.2 seconds flat without light, noise, TV, radio, washing machine, cat, or husband sounds causing me not to be able to do so! I know, however, that this is not necessarily the case for everyone else. I personally feel it is because I have such a clear conscience, but that’s another story! HA HA.

What you eat may affect how you sleep. One of the keys to a restful night’s sleep is to get your brain calmed rather than revved up. Each person responds differently to these foods based on their individual Diet Types. This article will provide you with some general tendencies, but please note that each person is different.

Some foods will typically contribute to restful sleep, while other foods may keep you awake. Sleeping ability in people like me are not as affected by the foods that I eat, compared to others who have a more difficult time sleeping.

Foods that may help you sleep are typically tryptophan-containing foods. Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that slows down nerve traffic so your brain isn’t so busy working. Foods that keep you awake are foods that typically stimulate neurochemicals that stimulate the brain.

Tryptophan is a precursor of the sleep-inducing substances serotonin and melatonin. This means tryptophan is the raw material that the brain uses to build these relaxing neurotransmitters. Making more tryptophan available, either by eating foods that contain this substance or by seeing to it that more tryptophan gets to the brain, will help to make you sleepy. On the other hand, nutrients that make tryptophan less available can disturb sleep.

Eating carbohydrates with tryptophan-containing foods makes this calming amino acid more available to the brain. A high carbohydrate meal stimulates the release of insulin, which helps clear from the bloodstream those amino acids that compete with tryptophan, allowing more of this natural sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain and manufacture sleep-inducing substances, such as serotonin and melatonin. Eating a high-protein meal without accompanying carbohydrates may keep you awake, since protein-rich foods also contain the amino acid, tyrosine, which perks up the brain. For those of you who follow a Lion or Otter, this may be a bit more difficult.

It does, however, explain why many of our patients who type out to a Lion Diet Typeâ„¢ and a Otter Diet Typeâ„¢ have trouble staying awake if they consume high carbohydrate-containing meals. These types of people are much more sensitive to the sleep-producing effects of these foods.


When tryptophan and tyrosine arrive at the brain cells, if more tyrosine amino acids enter the brain cells, neuroactivity will rev up. If more tryptophan amino acids get in the brain, then brain activity will calm down. Along comes some insulin which has been searching for carbohydrates in the bloodstream. Insulin keeps the tyrosine amino acids in the blood stream, allowing the brain-calming tryptophan effect to be higher than the effect of the brain-stimulating tyrosine.

In theory, it would make sense that you could take advantage of this biochemical anomaly by choosing protein or carbohydrate-rich meals, depending on whether you want to perk up or slow down your brain. For people who need to be alert during the day, higher protein, medium-carbohydrate meals are best eaten for breakfast and lunch. For dinner and bedtime snacks, meals or snacks that are higher in complex carbohydrates, with a smaller amounts of protein that contain just enough tryptophan to relax the brain may prove beneficial for those who have trouble sleeping.

You might be thinking, “Oh, I could just have that ice cream they told me to stop eating? Or maybe a bag of chips?” An all-carbohydrate snack, especially one high in junk sugars, is less likely to help you sleep. You’ll miss out on the sleep-inducing effects of tryptophan, and you may set off the roller-coaster effect of plummeting blood sugar followed by the release of stress hormones (like cortisol) that will actually keep you awake.

The best bedtime snack seems to be those with both complex carbohydrates and protein, and perhaps some calcium. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods. See, there was some merit to your grandmother telling you to drink some warm milk.

But please remember, your Diet Type, may actually take precedence to the above facts. For example, we find that patients who type out as those who needing to follow a higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet (Hauser Diets Lion and Otter types), do well with protein, particularly in the AM and PM as described above. If they consume carbohydrates during the day, they typically get tired. So it would make more sense for these types of people to follow the above recommendations. However, those who type out as requiring more carbohydrates and less protein such as Hauser Diets Monkey and Giraffe Types may not need to follow these principles as closely, as they may not be as easily affected by these foods.

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