Janet Rosenbaum, a professor of epidemiology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, writes:
Has anyone mentioned the connection between the honey/banana before bedtime and the advice to have an ounce of simple carbohydrate without protein before bedtime? There have been at least two books on this idea: Potatoes, not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons and The Serotonin Power Diet by Judith Wurtman. The first book suggests a small baked potato and bans alcohol and sugar during the day. The second book allows an ounce of any carbs such as pretzels. The proposed mechanism is that eating protein during the day, and carbs before bed without protein increases serotonin production over night, and my own experience is that it improves sleep and creates more vivid dreams.
I cannot easily get the Serotonin book here in Beijing but I found this related to the Potatoes book:
Now that you are having three meals a day at regular intervals, let’s add Mr. Spud to your routine. Have a potato (with its skin) every night three hours after dinner. It will help your body raise your serotonin level and make you feel more confident, competent, creative and optimistic. You can eat your potato baked, mashed, roasted, cut into oven fries or grated into hash browns. Just be sure you eat the skin. And you can top it with anything you like except foods that contain a protein. (Protein eaten along with the potato at bedtime will interfere with your serotonin-making process.) Good toppings are butter, salsa, mustard, spices, or olive oil. Toppings you should NOT use are cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, or cream of chicken soup.
I found when I ate honey with cheese the sleep-improvement effect of the honey was much reduced, in agreement with what is said here about avoiding cheese.
Here’s what happened when one person tried this. I am quoting only the parts about sleep:
[Day 1] I had the infamous potato at the recommended time. That potato really kept me up. I barely slept. What was this about her saying that a potato helps you get a good night’s sleep? But I’m willing to give it some time. I never get a good night’s sleep so it will be nice to see what that’s like again.
[Day 2] This night, I could not sleep at ALL. I was up till around 4 am. How can a little potato keep a person up so much?
[Day 3] I finally had that promised sleep that the author was talking about. WOW. I haven’t ever felt quite like this before.
[Day 4] A blissful night’s sleep.
[Day 9] Those potatoes really work on making one’s sleep much better.
[Day 23] I am not eating potatoes at night most of the time, which is part of the PNP [Potatoes Not Prozac] diet, but not something that you start from the beginning. [Nothing about sleep.]
Maybe she stopped the bedtime potato because she wanted to lose weight faster.
A potato near bedtime will surely increase blood glucose during sleep, supporting the idea that a better supply of blood glucose is what improves sleep. Presumably it’s important to do this without (a) triggering too much insulin production or (b) increasing brain activity so much you wake up. Whether glycogen, in the liver or elsewhere, has anything to do with this I have no idea. Glycogen is one source of new glucose as the brain burns thru blood glucose but another is not yet digested carbohydrate in what you’ve recently eaten (e.g., potato).