WHAT YOU EAT AFFECTS YOUR SLEEP
With a hectic lifestyle you would think that at the end of the day getting into bed would be automatic lights out and deep sleep. But, for many this is not so. Many adults struggle to get to sleep and then maintain a good restful night’s sleep. Not sleeping well can lead to many health problems and general unhappiness.
Lifestyle habits can play an important role in how we sleep. Before anything else look at your environment and patterns. The Cleveland Clinic recommends these tips for good sleep “hygiene”:
- Go to bed when you are tired
- Set a regular schedule to get up in the morning, even on weekends
- Not napping during the day
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine at night
- Do not watch TV and avoid cellphones in bed
- Have a bedtime ritual every night
- Avoid rigorous exercise three hours before bedtime
- Get out of bed when you can’t fall asleep
There are many articles out there on how to make sure your environment promotes sleep. But one aspect we don’t think of is what we eat. Research has found many links to diet and the quantity and quality of sleep you get. Let’s take a closer look at how to eat for better sleep.
VICIOUS FOOD SLEEP CYCLE
Many studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can mess with the hormones in our bodies and lead to weight gain. But, not eating correctly can also affect the quality of sleep we get. This vicious cycle needs to be stopped1.
HOW TO EAT FOR BETTER SLEEP
Timing and Type of Meals
A bed time snack can help promote sleep depending on what you eat. Overeating on the other hand can cause you to wake up because your body is busy trying to digest food instead of focusing on keeping you asleep.
Going to bed with a full stomach can also lead to problems such as acid reflux. Lying down with a full stomach may cause gastric acid to flow up the oesophagus causing heartburn. High Fat foods in the evening can cause indigestion and discomfort making it difficult to sleep. Drinking fluids too close to bedtime can increase the need to go to the bathroom during the night. This constant waking up disrupts sleep. Avoid fluids closer to bed time2.
Food That Helps You Fall Asleep
The amino acid tryptophan is not only important for growth but plays a vital role in sleep. Tryptophan can help induce sleep by releasing the hormones serotonin and melatonin which help to induce sleep2,3. Consuming foods high in tryptophan can help stimulate sleep. Drinking a glass of warm milk is a very true home remedy for falling asleep. Milk like other dairy products is rich in tryptophan and can help get you to sleep. Other foods rich in tryptophan include: yogurt, eggs, chicken, fish, beans, cheese, tuna, oats, nuts, seeds, and bananas3.
Complex carbohydrates have also shown to help increase tryptophan levels. If you have trouble staying asleep, research has shown eating a light snack of complex carbohydrates and protein can assist. Protein and complex carbohydrates increase levels of serotonin in the brain which can lead to deeper sleep. Examples of good snacks are: wholegrain cereal, oatmeal, a small chicken whole-wheat sandwich or whole-wheat bread with a dab of peanut butter2,4.
Other foods that can promote sleep:
- Almonds are a source of melatonin and the sleep-promoting mineral magnesium
- Turkey has a high content of protein and tryptophan, both of which may induce tiredness
- Kiwis are rich in serotonin and antioxidants, which improve sleep quality
- Tart cherry juice contains melatonin which may help induce sleep.
- Fatty fish are a great source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both may improve the quality of your sleep
- Walnuts contain melatonin and healthy fats that may promote better sleep5.
Foods to Avoid
Caffeine is naturally a stimulant that can keep you awake or at most disturb your sleep. Caffeine stays in the system for many hours and can thus affect your sleep long after you’ve forgotten about that tasty cup of coffee. It’s important to note other foods or drinks that may contain “hidden” caffeine, so label reading is important.
A nightcap can hurt your sleep. Although alcohol can cause you to fall asleep, it does not lead to good quality sleep. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop and this can cause you to wake up and disrupt hormones3, 4.
Getting enough sleep is important for your overall health and wellbeing. Diet can play a positive role as many foods can aid falling asleep and maintaining good quality sleep. It’s important to eat food that helps regulate serotonin and melatonin which are the hormones that regulate sleep. Avoid foods high fat foods that may cause discomfort so that it easier to stay asleep. Eating for good sleep will lead to a well-rested well balanced body. A body that is ready to jump out of bed and get going can do amazing things every day.