There is nothing better than the feeling of sinking into your bed at the end of a long day. Except, maybe, the feeling of sleeping in on the weekend. Whether you’re a morning person or love to get up late, sleep is a vital part of life. It’s our way of shutting down to recharge the batteries and is crucial for the health of our bodies and minds.
It’s therefore easy to understand why not getting enough Zs leaves us feeling flat, unmotivated, irritable and even achy. We all know the importance of sleep, but did you know just how much your diet impacts your slumber?
Here are 8 food related tips to be aware of if you want to ensure a good night’s sleep:
1. Overeating – In the attempt to perk ourselves up when we lack sleep, we tend to reach for stimulating foods. That doesn’t just mean the cup of joe, but also foods rich in carbs and sugar that our brains crave for energy. The problem is that sugar and carbs take a while to digest and when they are properly digested they’ll activate the brain’s thinking processes (and not necessarily the body’s energy level), causing sleep problems late at night if they’re eaten too late during the day. So to keep your brain from being overactive at night, avoid those giant dinner plates and late evening meals, especially those containing lots of sugar and carbs.
2. Undereating – In the struggle to keep a slim waistline, some of us use methods like intermittent fasting which can cause us to feel hungry at night. If you’re longing for a trip to the fridge, it can be hard to fall asleep and get the full night’s rest you need. So eat up!
3. Erratic schedules – Experts say that having a regular schedule for our meals (ie eating lunch at the same time each day) and our sleep (ie going to sleep at the same time each day) can really help our circadian rhythm do its job. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock for releasing and activating the hormones for digestion, organ function, physical or mental activity, etc. Doing things at the same time each day trains the body to be more efficient and to work along with you. If you always go to sleep at 11pm, then your body will know to release the sleep hormone melatonin just before then so that you will begin naturally to get tired around that time.
4. Grab some herbal tea – We should of course avoid green or black tea at night as they are filled with caffeine. Caffeine takes 6 hours to digest, which means it should be avoided at least 6 hours before we hit the hay. Caffeine free herbal tea, on the contrary, can be soothing for the soul. Scientists don’t have a clear idea about whether or not tea or hot drinks at night really help sleep, but something soothing and relaxing like chamomile tea surely can help you get ready for an evening’s rest.
5. Activate your serotonin – There are many serotonin rich foods like walnuts, hickory, pineapples, banana, kiwi fruit, plums and tomatoes. The most effective way to boost serotonin, however, is to allow your body to use tryptophan to produce serotonin on its own. It is believed that this is the mechanism behind the ‘turkey-comas’ people feel after their Thanksgiving dinner. So having foods that are rich in the serotonin precursor tryptophan, such as poultry, fish, chickpeas, soy, beets and bananas, in the later afternoon and evening can help relax the body and mind and prepare it for a good night’s rest.
6. Have protein and fiber for dinner – Eating whole grains and complex carbs at night can help you fall asleep faster, thanks to an effect much like what happens when the body tries to digest a big meal at lunch and we get tired. But if staying asleep is your issue, then this is the worst thing you can do because the natural sugars can cause a sugar roller coaster (and hence a sleep roller coaster) in the middle of the night. A fat and protein-rich snack like eggs, cheese or nuts, combined with high fiber vegetables like broccoli, spinach or beans, will have a better effect on your sleep quality so that you wake up in the morning refreshed and not spend your night tossing and turning.
7. Consider tart cherry juice – Recent studies suggest that tart cherry juice could help you get better sleep. It seems this fruit is special in helping to naturally boost the melatonin we need to feel sleepy and can therefore be helpful for people suffering from insomnia. While experts are unsure about how much is needed and if it’s really effective for everyone, the fact that there are so many other nutritional benefits from cherries means trying this option certainly couldn’t hurt.
8. Grab some almonds – Almonds contain the fat, protein and fiber you need (mentioned in point 6), are low in carbs and sugars, work to keep your blood sugar in balance (related to point 1) and provide a good dose of magnesium which relaxes the muscles and help put your body into the rest and digest (parasympathetic) cycle common to sleep. So if you’re feeling peckish at any time of the day grab a handful of almonds!
Your sleep is incredibly important and its effects on overall health should not be underestimated. Keeping the above steps in mind when it comes to diet will get you one step closer to a good night’s sleep. Sticking to your ph360 recommendations and updating your profile regularly will get you leaps and bounds closer to optimal health and wellbeing.