What we eat makes a difference in everything we do. Sleep is no exception. There are certain foods that are likely to keep you up at night and others that promote relaxation in the body. By identifying how different foods affect you, you’ll reach a higher level of health. Skip spicy, acidic options and select these foods instead for a good night’s sleep.
Most nuts qualify as a super snack due to the healthy fats they contain. Almonds, in particular, contain melatonin, a hormone which helps you to sleep more soundly. Eating a handful of these as an evening snack won’t weigh you down and will leave you full enough to satisfy your appetite.
Oatmeal is one of the best foods for restful sleep. While known as a breakfast staple, this type of whole grain is an optimal choice that won’t reduce serotonin levels like foods with refined sugars might. Rather than reaching for a bowl of ice cream, opt for a small bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh berries before you fall asleep.
For many, the concept of drinking warm milk to induce sleep brings back childhood memories. The psychological effect may trick the mind into feeling drowsy, but there’s more to it than that: milk contains tryptophan, which triggers the brain to release serotonin and melatonin. These help the body to relax and aid in developing a deeper sleep. Plus, it just feels soothing.
Bananas are a good source of magnesium and potassium, both of which support a healthy immune system and regulate balance in the body. It’s an easy snack to grab before bed that’s gentle on the stomach and offers up extra minerals at the same time as a nice sleep aid.
A serving of cottage cheese offers nutrients, calcium, and protein. It’s easily digestible and can be eaten on its own or with sliced bananas, blueberries, or other fruits mixed in. These factors make it a go-to snack to be eaten anytime of day and one of the best foods for sleeping.
Decaffeinated teas are a calming drink option before bed. Ginger, specifically, aids in digestion and fights against illness when you have a cold or flu symptoms. While it offers alternative medicinal benefits, the habit of relaxing with a cup of hot herbal tea is simply a nice ritual to follow before bedtime.
Turkey has been linked to tryptophan for decades and has long been considered one of the foods good for sleep. So is the food coma real after Thanksgiving? While it may not automatically induce drowsiness, it’s still a beneficial option to eat in the evening. Grab a few slices on its own or make a sandwich with whole-wheat bread to feel full but not stuffed. It’s mild, tasty snack that’s easy on the stomach.
Chickpeas are another food that contains tryptophan as well as other vitamins that promote health and improved sleep. It’s a quick and easy snack to pair with celery, carrots, or pita chips to settle any late-night cravings in a healthy way.
While it may not be an obvious choice as a food that helps you sleep better, tuna contains vitamin B6, which leads to melatonin production. It’s also a source of healthy fat and leaves you feeling full. Next time you’re meal planning for the week, add tuna to the menu for dinner and see if there is a link to how well you sleep.
String cheese, cheese cubes, or cheese and crackers is a go-to snack. Cheese has calcium and when eaten in small quantities can be a perfect way to end the day. As long as you stick to a single serving, it’s a food that’ll hit the spot and support better sleep quality.
Foods to Avoid When Trying to Improve Sleep
As important as it is to know which foods are beneficial for sleeping, it’s essential to also know which ones are not. For example, a late night pizza run sounds delicious but the mix of tomato sauce and greasy meats is not the ideal combination for your stomach. Fatty foods with high acidity are known to cause acid reflux and heartburn, both which can keep you up at night.
Spicy foods should also be avoided right before bed because they can cause heartburn and indigestion. The body needs time to digest and react to certain types of food, such as buffalo chicken wings, curries, and other types of dishes that have a high spice content level. The same goes for burgers or fast food choices that are greasy and high in fat. These can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. If eaten too late, you’ll feel the effects as you lie down to go to sleep.
It’s also best to avoid alcohol as a before-bedtime beverage. While drinking a glass of wine to unwind doesn’t have too much of an effect, consuming too much alcohol can prevent you from getting quality sleep. It may make you feel drowsy, but you’ll end up feeling restless and wake up dehydrated and groggy.
How to Tell If Your Diet Is Affecting Your Sleep
Monitor how your body reacts to certain foods. This can change over time. There may have been nights when you’ve chowed down on slices of pizza late at night without a problem, but now your body doesn’t react as well. If you think food could be preventing you from getting quality sleep, limit what and how much you eat before bed.
Try to avoid eating anything after dinner. When craving a bedtime snack, opt for one of the foods that contain tryptophan to promote sleep. Additionally, dehydration often shows up in the form of hunger pains. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. Proper hydration keeps you feeling full for longer and regulates the body’s natural functions like proper digestion.
Once you start adding certain foods to your diet more regularly, note how they make you feel after. How quickly did you fall asleep? Did you sleep through the night? Taking a quick assessment of how you feel in the morning will tell you a lot about what you should and shouldn’t be eating before bed.
Everyone has their own bedtime habits. To improve yours, start by paying attention to what you eat and see if that makes a difference in how well you sleep. Combined with tracking your sleep cycle, you can improve your overall sleep health. The Eight Sleep Pod and Smart Bed provides users with a “Sleep Fitness Score” that measures all of the factors affecting your sleep duration so that you can identify patterns and make changes as needed. It’s like a personal trainer for your sleep (important, as sleep fitness is critical to your overall health and fitness).
Additionally, the Pod 3 makes subtle temperature adjustments throughout the night to enable deeper, higher quality rest.
Additional Lifestyle Changes to Aid Your Sleep Health
Making adjustments to your diet is one of the many ways you can change your lifestyle to promote better sleep health. Adding regular exercise to your day also is beneficial. Many find that working out in the evening is beneficial to sleeping better at night. Exercise energizes the body and then cools it down when the activity is over. By engaging in regular exercise a few hours before going to bed, this can help you destress and better prepare the body for sleep.
Drinking more water throughout the day is also favorable for all aspects of health. Being dehydrated makes you feel lethargic, trigger headaches, and lead to more serious health conditions. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Finally, focus on activities that alleviate stress. Anxiety and tension are two of the main reasons why people are unable to fall asleep at night or suffer from sleep deprivation. Meditation is a peaceful practice that helps to alleviate stress. It allows you to relax the mind and muscles, while focusing on the importance of breathing and balance. When combined with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and hydration, meditation becomes part of a lifestyle designed to make you sleep better.
Sources: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/food-and-drink-promote-good-nights-sleep; https://uamshealth.com/healthlibrary2/medicalmyths/warmmilkmakeyousleepy/;