They’re one of the world’s favourite snacks due to their sweet taste, but raisins – dried grapes – are special for other reasons too. Eating raisins before bed could actually help you sleep, protect you from disease and boost your immune system. We explain how, next.
Raisins before bed: The surprising sleep aid
Evidence exists that grapes have been cultivated by humans since 6500 BC! However it’s not the history of this food that makes it so interesting. Rather it’s the fact that grapes and raisins are actually a natural sleep aid.
That’s because eating raisins before bed can directly help you sleep due to the presence of melatonin in grapes. This hormone regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is so important to our sleep health that often individuals who are struggling to sleep – or have been diagnosed with insomnia – are prescribed melatonin.
The fact grapes are a natural source of the sleep hormone melatonin means that raisins could potentially act as a sleep aid for individuals suffering with insomnia.
Grapes – and therefore raisins – are also a good source of tryptophan – an essential amino acid that we don’t produce naturally, and which we must obtain through diet. Supplementing with this amino acid appears to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep as tryptophan helps your body produce that all important sleep hormone – melatonin! Therefore eating raisins before bed could be a great way to top up your natural melatonin levels at the right time.
That’s not all. Raisins are also a rich source of folate – known as Vitamin B9. This essential vitamin tends to be low in individuals that suffer from insomnia and sleep disorders, so topping up folate levels by eating raisins could directly help sleep quality.
Interestingly, there’s also some belief that a few raisins before bed could stop night-time trips to the toilet. Whilst some people say it’s true and anecdotal evidence does exist of it, studies are yet to prove it.
There is one caveat though in regards to eating raisins before bed. Raisins have a high sugar content, so if you’re watching your sugar consumption then it’s best to only eat a small handful of raisins in the evening.
Eating raisins before bed could help sleep quality and onset due to the presence of melatonin, tryptophan, and folate. All of which have been shown to have an effect on sleep quality.
Eating raisins before bed: Any other HEALTH benefits?
Any food that helps you get a good night’s sleep is welcomed, but did you know raisins also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties? The reason for that is mainly due to the presence of anthocyanins – a compound that gives them their distinct color!
That’s important as many major diseases like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s are often linked to chronic inflammation. Therefore incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – like raisins and kiwi – is a no-brainer.
Antioxidant foods are also important for sleep as antioxidants appear to have a direct effect on sleep quality, as they support the immune system and help promote restfulness at night.
In fact antioxidant rich foods – like raisins – help protect your body and can even reverse damage that has been done by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress comes about when there’s an imbalance between free radical molecules (which can cause harm) and antioxidants. That imbalance then causes illness and tissue damage. The result can be the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and many others. Therefore eating antioxidant foods – like chia seeds or raisins – should be a priority.
The science has been backed up too. Grapes have been shown in studies to be a source ‘of many potential anticancer and cancer chemopreventive agents’, have been shown to potentially prevent Alzheimer’s. They also appear to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and potentially lower blood pressure.
Raisins have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Because of that, eating raisins could have a positive effect on health, protect against disease, and boost the immune system.
Raisins can be found in shops and supermarkets around the world. They are delicious and can be eaten in their natural form, and so are easy to incorporate into your diet. If you can, always choose fresh red or purple raisins over white raisins for the best health benefits and nutrients.
For full sleep benefits, a handful of raisins an hour or two before bedtime will suffice.
Eating raisins before bed: What about side effects?
If you’re not allergic to grapes then moderate consumption of raisins shouldn’t cause any side effects. However eating raisins in excess could lead to weight gain due to the high sugar content, as well as side effects like bloating, gas, diarrhoea and heartburn due to the acidity.
As always, we recommend consulting with your doctor if undertaking a diet change, or if you have concerns about how a specific food may interact with any preexisting conditions or medicines.