Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being. However, sleep disorders such as insomnia are common, leading many of us to struggle falling asleep or staying asleep. And while there are many different factors that can contribute to poor sleep, one correlation that tends to be overlooked is diet and sleep.
The quality of both are so undeniably interconnected that what you eat — and when you eat — can make all the difference between restless and restful sleep.
How can making smarter dietary choices help you get some more z’s? Read on to find out.
Avoid Caffeine and Heavy Meals at Night
Caffeine may be the ultimate elixir to keeping us awake, alert and productive during the day, but that’s the last thing anyone needs when trying to fall asleep. Even hot cocoa or a piece of dark chocolate in the evening contain enough caffeine to disrupt your sleep patterns. Eating a heavy meal close to bedtime can also cause indigestion and discomfort, making it difficult to fall asleep. To improve your sleep, try to eat your last meal of the day at least two to three hours before you go to bed.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Research shows that alcohol, in moderation, can have its benefits — that glass of red wine with dinner contains heart-healthy resveratrol, and alcohol’s sedative properties can help you fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly. But when the effects wear off, it can disrupt your restorative and slow-wave stages of sleep, plus worsen sleep apnea, and encourage sleepwalking, sleep talking and memory issues.
Eat a Balanced Diet
It goes without saying that a healthy diet fuels us throughout the day, strengthens our heart, bones and immunity, and reduces our risk of certain diseases. It can also help improve sleep. Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Likewise, getting an adequate intake of certain minerals and amino acids can also aid restful sleep:
- Magnesium is important for muscle relaxation and can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress; elevated anxiety and stress levels can make it difficult to fall asleep. Foods high in magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds. Therefore, try to include these foods in your diet to help improve your sleep.
- Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. It’s naturally produced by the body, but incorporating certain foods can also help boost melatonin levels and improve sleep, such as tart cherries, tomatoes and walnuts.
- There’s a reason why we feel sleepy after that Thanksgiving turkey. It, along with eggs and dairy products, are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which can also boost melatonin production.
Steer Clear of Sugar and Processed Foods
Another important aspect of diet that can affect your sleep is the amount of sugar and processed foods you consume, which can lead to blood sugar fluctuations and, in turn, disrupt your sleep patterns. To improve your sleep, try to limit your intake of both — and if you’re hungry before bedtime, snack more smartly by switching out sugary or salty snacks with prunes, kiwis or bananas. They’re chock full of serotonin, potassium, magnesium and fiber — all of which aid better sleep.
Hydration is also an important factor when it comes to sleep. Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue and difficulty falling asleep. Therefore, it’s important to drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Aim for eight to 10 glasses of water per day. However, avoid drinking too much water close to bedtime.
Find Your Perfect Balance
Eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones can greatly improve our sleep. With a little bit of effort, attention, and trial and error to find the right changes to your diet, you can enjoy a better night’s sleep.
If you continue to struggle with sleep despite making dietary changes, it may be a good idea to consult a healthcare professional for further advice. Whitney Sleep can help.
If you feel there’s a link between your diet and poor sleep, schedule a consultation today. Our experienced team of sleep specialists can help you find the cause of any sleep disruptions you may be experiencing and find the right path to get you a better night’s sleep — every night.