Foods to Eat to Improve Your Sleep
by Karen Wojciechowski
Having a good night sleep is essential in maintaining physical and mental health. It is when we sleep that our body recovers and our muscle rebuilds itself. For kids, sleep forms an important part of their growth and development. Without adequate sleep, you could be increasing your risk of developing heart and kidney diseases and even high blood pressure or diabetes.
The quality of sleep that we get each night is dependent on several factors. Your daily activities can affect your sleep. This includes your morning / night routines and the level of physical activities you engage in. Your bedtime routine plays a massive role in the quality of your sleep. This routine signals your body that it’s time to slow down and get ready for a night’s rest.
Where you sleep also matters. Is your room free of distractions such as TV, radio or other noise that could possibly disrupt your sleep? Is your bed comfortable enough? Is your room well ventilated? Is your room pitch black with no light coming from alarm clocks or chargers?
Many don’t know this but what you eat during the day can have a massive effect on the quality of your sleep. And eating too late can have negative effects on sleep.
Food and Sleep
Although food is just one of the many factors affecting one’s sleep, it helps to know which food can positively (or negatively affect) our sleeping patterns. Some foods tend to induce sleep as it calms the nervous system. Carbohydrates like jasmine rice can trigger the production of tryptophan, a type of amino acid that can make you feel sleepy. Having a cup of chamomile tea can also help calm your body down so it is easier for you to drift off to sleep.
There are also certain vitamins and minerals that can promote good sleep. B Vitamins, for example, help in regulating the production of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is essential in controlling the sleep/wake cycle. Examples of foods that are rich in Vitamin B are salmon, chicken breast, bananas and potatoes.
Consumption of foods that are rich in Calcium is recommended if you wish to get a good shuteye. This mineral is needed by our body in order to convert the amino acid, Tryptophan into Melatonin, a neurotransmitter similar to Serotonin. This explains how a warm glass of milk is often a good bedtime snack before calling it a night. Other sources of calcium are cheese and Greek yogurt.
Iron-rich foods are not to be forgotten too. Ever heard of Iron deficiency anemia? Anemia is the result of having low level of Iron in the body therefore there is not enough healthy red blood cells produced and oxygen is not adequately transported all over the body. This can disrupt one’s sleep and one may experience lightheadedness, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, fatigue or weakness. In order to get the daily supply of iron in your body, include liver, nuts, spinach or tofu in your diet.
What To Avoid
If there are certain foods that you should eat in order for you to get a good night’s sleep, there are also foods that you should be avoiding as this could disrupt your sleep pattern. They are:
Caffeinated drinks and food in general (not just coffee) tend to activate your central nervous system. One temptation you should be avoiding at night is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is high on caffeine. The darker they are, the higher their caffeine content is. If you eat dark chocolate (or any chocolate in that matter as milk chocolate is high in sugar which can keep you awake) before bed, you will most likely end up staying awake longer.
Be aware that caffeine can be hidden and we may be having it without even knowing. Caffeine can also be found in some medications, most tea’s, and even decaffeinated coffee. Yep, decaffeinated coffee actually contains caffeine albeit a much lower amount than regular coffee.
Although a drink or two could leave you drowsy, there is a study showing that alcohol could disrupt sleep in the second half of the night. This doesn’t mean that you will keep waking, but the quality of your sleep will be greatly reduced. Not exactly a good idea if you intend to get a good rest after a long day.
Eating spicy foods can possibly give you indigestion or heartburn which will make it almost impossible for you to get the quality sleep that we need.
It is also found that eating spicy foods can elevate your body temperature which can lead to poor sleep quality.
High In Protein Foods
While eating high in protein foods can be really good for us, they are not such a good idea in the evening. These foods are more difficult for our bodies to digest and therefore can keep us awake at night or lesser the quality of our sleep. So avoid loading up on protein before bed.
Have you noticed that what you eat affects your sleep? And have you tried eating different things for dinner and notice their effects on your sleep? We would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.
(Karen, founder of RealEnergyFood.com is an integrative nutrition health coach who is passionate about helping people boost energy levels, lose weight, clear up their skin & improve their health through finding the right foods that work for their unique body.
With a Science degree from the University of Western Australia and certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Karen works with clients all over the world through one on one coaching and group programs. Karen’s mission is to help people get energized and achieve food freedom so they can concentrate on the important things in life. Find out more at RealEnergyFood.com.)