For the evening meal, foods that contain a high tryptophan to total protein ratio should be eaten. Tryptophan is the precursor for brain synthesis of serotonin, a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter (see pp. 109).1 Eating a tryp-tophan-rich supper (or late-evening snack) together with ample carbohydrate can improve sleep quality. Carbohydrates stimulate production of insulin, and insulin enhances uptake of tryptophan into the brain.
Although alcohol has a sedative effect that can hasten sleep onset, heavy alcohol intake often produces light, unsettled sleep and increases nighttime awakening. Because alcohol can interfere with deep sleep, alcoholic "nightcaps" should generally be avoided A better bedtime drink is a glass of warm milk. Milk is rich in tryptophan and calcium, both of which have a calming effect and may improve sleep quality.
The more caffeine consumed during the day, the higher the risk of insomnia. Consumption of coffee, tea, or cola drinks should be avoided within 6 hours of bedtime and minimized during the day. Some individuals are sensitive to small amounts of natural stimulants found in aged cheeses, bacon, ham, sausages, sauerkraut, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes, and these foods may contribute to insomnia if eaten in the evening. Low nighttime blood-sugar levels can cause frequent or early awakening and may be a sign of reactive hy-poglycemia (see pp. 185.)2
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