29 Jan How What You Eat Affects Your Sleep
It’s a proven fact that the quality of your sleep depends on many factors. Your diet, meal timing and eating habits are among those factors too. They can influence your sleep as much as your daily routine or physical activity does. Certain foods can worsen your sleep quality and may even lead to insomnia, while others, on the contrary, may be beneficial. Read further to find out how to balance your diet and what foods to avoid before bedtime so that you can sleep better.
How to Improve Your Diet So That It Will Improve Your Sleep Quality
Many people often make the same diet mistakes without even noticing. Bad eating habits will not only make your sleep worse but also may contribute to obesity and hormonal disorders.
So, what and when should you do in terms of your diet to sleep better?
#1 Cut on Highly Processed Carbs
Although carbohydrates can promote sleepiness by triggering serotonin production, not all carbs are created equal.
Highly processed carbs, such as pasta and bread, along with sweets full of added sugars, may have a drastic impact on your energy levels. Sugar from these foods quickly enters your bloodstream, resulting in an energy spike and increased alertness.
Also, high blood sugar levels cause your pancreas to produce more insulin. Insulin is needed to transport sugar from the blood to the body cells. And after this happens, you may experience a sudden drop in energy, which may lead you to consume more sugar and repeat the cycle over again.
Bottom line? Go for a fruit instead of a cake. Fruits contain fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar and evens out its levels in your body. This way you won’t crave another sugar dose and your energy levels will remain natural.
#2 Avoid Caffeinated Beverages and Alcohol
Now, let’s be honest – taking any psychoactive substances before sleep isn’t a good idea.
Still, the most common drinking choices among people are either caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, so let’s break down why they aren’t good for your shut-eye.
With caffeine, it’s pretty obvious. It can bind with adenosine receptors and block their work. Adenosine is one of the sleep-promoting neurotransmitters in your brain. So, when your neurons stop responding to adenosine, you become more alert. This is how your morning coffee works.
The thing is, the half-life of caffeine is 4-6 hours, so it can stay in your system for quite a long time and make it challenging for you to fall asleep if you’re a fan of an evening cup of coffee.
Alcohol is a bit trickier. Although a glass of red wine in the evening can make you a bit drowsy by interfering with GABAA receptors, alcohol can adversely impact the structure of your sleep.
Typically, your sleep cycle consists of two main stages:
- NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) — the stage of sleep in which we restore energy
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement) — during this sleep stage, we see dreams and can process information and form memories.
Studies show that people who consume alcohol regularly have a reduced percentage of REM sleep in the first half of the night. Thus, their sleep is less restorative and beneficial for cognitive abilities.
#3 Increase Your Protein Intake
Along with cutting your carbs, you can as well eat more protein-rich foods, such as chicken, fish, and dairy. Proteins are the hardest nutrient to digest by your stomach, so their absorption takes more time. This, again, can prevent hunger spikes during the night and make your sleep deeper.
The rule of thumb here is to consume protein-rich foods not less than 1-2 hours before bedtime so that you could fall asleep without putting excessive load on your digestion.
#4 Don’t Eat Spicy and Heavy Meals for a Dinner
While bingeing on Buffalo wings and beer at the bar with friends every once in a while sounds fun, these eating habits actually won’t help you sleep better.
Spicy foods can raise your body temperature, which will make falling asleep a struggle. Typically, when melatonin levels start to rise, your body temperature drops a bit, and this helps promote sleepiness. Also, spicy and fried foods are heavier for your digestive system, and an overly active gut can interfere with your desire to sleep better.
So, you can surely take part in nights out like this, but don’t make them your everyday activity.
#5 Snack Wisely
Now you might be thinking that it’s probably better to go to bed with an empty stomach to sleep better. While this may work for some people, most of us sleep better when our stomach isn’t signalling to the brain about hunger. So, what can be your late-night snack?
Here are the foods that might promote sleepiness:
- Cherries (and their juice) are a natural source of melatonin, our sleep hormone. Consuming cherry juice 30-60 minutes before bedtime may help you boost the levels of melatonin and ease your drift-off.
- Bananas are another great source of melatonin. Also, they’re pretty filling, so you won’t feel hungry even if it takes you longer to fall asleep.
- Nuts kill two birds with one stone: they’re rich in healthy fats and fiber. Also, some of them, particularly almonds, are an excellent source of magnesium and tryptophan. Both of these nutrients are needed to promote the relaxation of the nervous system.
- Dairy such as cottage cheese and yogurt are great sources of tryptophan, so they can aid in serotonin production and promote better sleep. Also, dairy is rich in calcium, which helps your brain convert tryptophan in serotonin, so it’s basically the ultimate sleep-promoting combo.
- Finally, cereals aren’t only for breakfast. Eating oats for dinner will leave you full and help you fall asleep without any adverse effects on the sleep structure.
So, if you feel that you need to munch on something right before sleep, choose one of the options above and prepare to get your portion of a good night’s sleep.
Also, note that you need to stay hydrated during the day, as this promotes alertness and focus. But drinking too much water right before bed isn’t recommended if you don’t want to travel to the bathroom at night.