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Poor sleep quality or any sleep difficulties, if left unattended can affect your health both physically and mentally. There are some light, but healthy bedtime snacks that help you rest easy and fall asleep quickly. This blog mainly focuses on bananas! Why should you eat a banana before bed? Why are bananas good for sleep? How do bananas make you sleepy? Read on to know!
Benefits of Eating a Banana Before Bed
Below are seven things that explain what are bananas good for and how they help you sleep:
Boost Serotonin and Melatonin Production
Two hormones that play a key role in the sleep-wake cycle are serotonin and melatonin. They both are also known as sleep-inducing agents or the sleep super twins. Vitamin B6 in bananas converts tryptophan to serotonin.
Serotonin is a hormone that regulates our mood and evokes feelings of well-being and happiness. It synthesizes melatonin - a hormone that maintains our 24-hour internal clock and signals our brain to stay awake in the day and sleep at night. So, simply eating a banana before bed promotes relaxation and sleep naturally.
Reduce stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety delay the onset of sleep and decrease sleep time and efficiency. Research says that low levels of magnesium in the body are linked to stress and it can be lowered by supplying your body with magnesium.
A medium-sized banana offers you 8% of the daily recommended amount of magnesium. Eating bananas before bed on a regular basis can calm your body, relax your mind and help you fall asleep faster.
Research shows evidence of magnesium deficiency in 50% of older adults suffering from insomnia. Magnesium supplements help beat insomnia by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter - GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid).
GABA slows the brain waves, relaxes your mind and body, and induces sleep. Eating a banana before bed can help you beat insomnia because this fruit is rich in magnesium.
The soluble fiber in both ripe and unripe bananas is linked to improved digestion and constipation prevention. Moreover, the resistant starch in bananas works as a prebiotic for beneficial gut bacteria. Bacteria ferment resistant starch to produce butyrate, which supports intestinal function by reducing inflammation. Some studies link chronic intestinal inflammation to poor sleep.
Now, that explains how eating bananas can help people with digestive issues and poor sleep caused by it.
Reduce Blood Pressure
Potassium deficiency increases blood pressure, hypertension, and the risk of stroke - according to various studies. One regular-sized banana provides your body with a daily recommended amount of potassium. This mineral helps minimize the harmful effects of sodium in the body and regulate blood pressure. Hence, potassium naturally improves your kidney and heart health.
What’s more? Our sleep-wake behavioral pattern affects our body’s circadian rhythm of blood pressure. But, bananas contain tryptophan that can produce melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycles. Therefore, eating bananas at night is healthy for people with poor sleep and high blood pressure.
In short, eating a banana before bed improves digestion, reduces intestinal inflammation, and improves sleep quality in people with Crohn's disease.
Reduce Muscle Cramps
Potassium maintains sodium electrolyte balance in the body. The deficiency of this mineral causes muscle cramps and poor sleep performance. Bananas are rich in potassium and eating the fruit regularly can reduce nighttime cramps. Eating a banana before bed can relax your muscles and promote restful sleep at night.
Ease Restless Leg Syndrome
People with Restless leg syndrome (RLS) have an uncontrollable urge to shake or move their legs and experience a tingling or uncomfortable sensation. RLS typically happens in the late hours of the day when sitting or lying down and affects the quality of sleep. It may even lead to chronic sleep deprivation.
Research shows that magnesium and iron can alleviate nighttime leg aches and cramps. Both the minerals are present in bananas. Eating a banana before bedtime can help ease RLS and promote restful sleep. Also, know that eating bananas don't cure RLS, the treatment for this disorder is still evolving.
How Do Nutrients in Bananas Help You Sleep?
The nutrients in an average medium-sized banana that are associated with better sleep are as follows:
- Fiber (3 gm)
- Carbohydrates (27 gm)
- Magnesium (32 )
- Potassium (422 mg)
- Vitamin B6 (0.433 mg)
- Vitamin C (10 mg)
- Tryptophan (0.11 g)
All these nutrients help regulate the timing of our body’s internal clock. Now, let's see how these nutrients in bananas help you sleep better:
Fibers and Carbs
Fibers and carbs satisfy your hunger pangs at night plus they don’t disturb your digestion late at night. Research shows that consuming high-carb food increases the time it takes for your body to fall asleep. The reason is that carbs improve the chances of converting tryptophan (entering into your brain through banana) into serotonin and melatonin.
- Magnesium improves insomnia and daytime wakefulness.
- Taking 500 mg of magnesium every day can reduce the levels of stress hormone - cortisol and increase the levels of sleep hormone - melatonin.
- Eating a banana before bedtime or foods rich in magnesium helps you fall asleep faster and increase your sleep time.
You can intake 10% of the daily recommended value of potassium by eating one regular-sized banana. People with hypertension experience poor sleep due to low potassium levels according to a study. Also, potassium deficiency can cause muscle cramps, which in turn significantly affects the quality of sleep.
But, eating food rich in potassium can help you overcome potassium deficiency. As per research, eating bananas at night may improve your sleep.
While serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. Tryptophan in our brain converts into serotonin, which produces melatonin. Serotonin and melatonin work together to signal your body that it’s time to relax and sleep.
Although tryptophan is an essential amino acid, our body doesn’t synthesize it. Foods like bananas are rich in tryptophan. They
- Decrease the time it takes to fall asleep at night
- Increase sleep time
- Improve sleep efficiency
- Decrease wakefulness at night
In short, eating bananas at night is healthy! However, it is also a fact that there is a lack of studies on bananas and sleep that analyzed the direct effect of eating this food at night on sleep.
Other Benefits of Eating a Banana Before Bed
Besides, helping you relax and sleep well, bananas have the following health benefits:
May Support Exercise Recovery
People who exercise a lot, sweat more and lose electrolytes. They are highly likely to experience muscle cramps and soreness. Bananas contain - essential nutrients like potassium and magnesium that act as electrolytes - and easily digested carbs - which makes it a perfect food for athletes to resupply the lost electrolytes. Whether it is before, during, or after exercise, bananas supply excellent nutrition, as per research.
May Support Weight Loss
Fibers help in regulating the body’s appetite and weight loss. This could be the reason why chia seeds loaded with protein and fiber are so popular for weight loss. Bananas are rich in soluble fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals, which makes a banana a wonderful addition to a weight loss plan. There is also scientific evidence that eating dietary fiber prevents overweight and obesity.
May Help You Feel Full
Hunger pangs at night increase the time it takes to fall asleep. Eating a banana at bedtime can satisfy your hunger and help you feel full. Bananas are low in calories and contain soluble fibers and pectin, which together add bulk to your digestive system and increase the time it takes to empty your stomach and gastric contents.
Thus, bananas are one of the healthy-late snacks! Eating a slice of banana along with protein-rich food before bed can promote the feeling of fullness and help you sleep better.
Improve Blood Sugar Levels
Other Foods That Help You Sleep
Eating foods that contain tryptophan and melatonin or induce sleep-promoting neurotransmitters - before bed will help you sleep well. Below are some foods that you can eat alone or pair with bananas for better sleep:
Milk contains tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. A glass of milk along with a slice of banana before bed will prepare your body for a peaceful sleep.
Tart cherries are an excellent source of vitamin C and melatonin and are known to promote better sleep. A 100% tart cherry juice of about 8 ounces, contains around 140 calories. Have this at least 1 - 2 hours before sleep. For those suffering from insomnia, having tart cherries can increase both sleep time and sleep efficiency.
This is the best drink to have before bed because it improves sleep quality and efficiency. Plus there are no side effects. Chamomile contains an antioxidant - apigenin that binds to sleep-inducing receptors in the brain. Having chamomile tea before bed not only improves sleep but lowers acid reflux and blood pressure.
Pistachios are packed with proteins, calories, and melatonin. 28 grams of shelled pistachios contain just 160 calories and 6.5 mg of melatonin, whereas you need just 0.5–5 mg of melatonin to sleep well at night. Eating pistachios before bed can set you up for a good night’s rest.
Eating 100% whole grains before sleep can trigger serotonin, melatonin, and other sleep-inducing neurotransmitters in the brain.
Foods to Avoid Before Bed
As per nutritionists and dietitians, you should avoid food high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat before bed. Caffeinated foods too!
Here are some foods to avoid before bed:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Chocolates, coffee, and even decaffeinated drinks that contain caffeine
Caffeine disturbs the timing of our internal body clock and delays the onset of sleep. It blocks adenosine, a chemical that makes you sleepy at night, and signals the brain to stay awake.
Eating a banana before bed is healthy and is backed by scientific evidence. Loaded with lots of nutrients, vitamins, and sleep-promoting agents, bananas prepare your body for relaxing and comfortable sleep at night. So far there is no research that shows any disadvantages of eating a banana at night. Whole grains, eggs, and pistachios are some of the other satisfying foods that help you fall asleep quickly. But, avoid caffeinated or acidic, or fatty foods before bed as they are associated with less restorative sleep and cause poor quality sleep.