With so much research backing the need for quality sleep to support a healthy lifestyle, people finally understand the importance of sleep for their overall health. But with millions of individuals suffering from sleep deprivation, it’s not always as easy as getting more sleep at night.
If you’re looking to get better sleep, it’s essential to analyze your daily habits. By looking at your eating and exercise patterns, you can determine (at least in part) if your routine is contributing to a restless night. Healthy eating and sufficient physical activity improve sleep quality.
In addition to adding an exercise regimen to your day or heading outside for sunshine and fresh air, you can change your eating habits. Here are eight easy ways to implement food habits that can help create deeper and more energizing sleep.
Simple Eating Habits that Promote a Better Night’s Sleep
Some foods excite our bodies, like chocolate, tea, and coffee. They contain caffeine and, even though you may not feel the effects right away, the ingredients sit in your body for hours, making it difficult to get much-needed shuteye. Other foods take a while to digest, so while you are sleeping, your body is working on breaking down your meal. This can make you uncomfortable and interfere with a restful night.
Instead of guessing at what works and what doesn’t follow these eight food habits:
- Increase your fiber intake and reduce sugars. Slow-wave sleep patterns are necessary to help your body rest, heal, and recover from the stresses of the day. These patterns occur after you initially fall asleep and enter deeper REM cycles. If you are eating foods that are interfering with your digestion (especially those low in fiber and high in added sugars) and causing you to awaken in the middle of the night, you cannot achieve deep, refreshing sleep.
- Avoid foods that cause heartburn. This can be different for everyone, but some common characteristics of heartburn-inducing foods include greasy, high-fat meals, spicy foods, soda, and alcohol. If you suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux), you may find it increasingly difficult to sleep well. Adjusting your diet and talking to your physician about potential medications can reduce your symptoms and let you sleep better. A combination of medical advice and healthy changes to eating habits can create significant improvements in your quality of sleep.
- Eat a balanced diet. In today’s fast-paced culture, it’s easy to live on processed snacks, boxed meals, and fast food. But your body wasn’t meant to survive on nutrient-poor foods like these, as it can’t break down many of the ingredients contained in these meals. To fuel itself properly, your body needs natural, whole foods that contain vital compounds.
If you want to sleep restfully and function well throughout the day, focus on creating healthy meals that contain fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. Your proteins should be low-fat and full of B vitamins to help regulate your levels of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep.
- Work towards weight loss. One of the hardest personal improvement goals for many people to meet is achieving a healthy BMI, yet this has a myriad of health benefits. Obesity is a leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition in which your breathing starts and stops when you sleep. Weight loss is excellent for promoting quality sleep in other ways as well, including reducing insomnia and nighttime irritability.
- Avoid heavy meals at dinnertime. Your heaviest meals should be breakfast and lunch, while you have the entire day ahead of you to digest your food and burn calories for vital functions. But since most families only see each other around the dinner table, the typical routine has become eating big meals in the evenings. This interferes with digestion patterns and allows greasy, hearty foods to be absorbed into your body, instead of being used for necessary fuel.
- Reduce night-time snacks. You might feel the urge to grab potato chips or ice cream after dinner. You might even tell yourself it’s a reward for a hard day of work, but those unhealthy nighttime snacks could be causing a restless night of sleep.
If you must snack before bed, try fresh fruit, nuts (like almonds and walnuts that have melatonin in them), warm milk, and complex carbs. Check out a list of snacks here. These will keep you feeling full longer and slow your digestive system the way greasy, and fatty foods would.
- Be careful about what you drink. Avoid any products with caffeine after midday, including green tea, coffee, and soda. Warm milk, chamomile, lavender tea, and water are better choices if you are ready to get some rest.
- Skip the alcohol. A glass of wine before bed might help you to fall asleep faster — it also puts you in a deep sleep earlier. These seemingly positive effects cause your brain to rebound and wake up too soon, though; you’ll toss and turn throughout the night when you should be resting soundly.
- Stay hydrated. When your body doesn’t have adequate hydration, your mouth, and nasal passages become dry and irritated, causing snoring and restless sleep. You can also get leg cramps without enough fluids. The key is to keep hydrated all day, not just drink water before bed, as this will interrupt your sleep when you frequently wake to use the bathroom.
Your Eating Habits Affect Your Sleep
If you want to get better rest, take a good long look at your daily eating patterns and choose a few of these habits to start implementing into your lifestyle. Your body will thank you!