Sleeping well at night can do wonders for your health and wellbeing. It doesn’t only give you the rest you need, but also puts you in a better mood and improves your resilience to illness and stress. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can result in long-term illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
And although many of us think that healthy sleep habits only depend on when you go to bed and how long you sleep, what you drink and eat before bedtime is also a crucial factor. Research shows that eating the right food or doing light exercise before bed can increase the time spent in the deep sleep stage. During deep sleep, your body and brain slow down and physical energy is restored. In other words, deep sleep is what you need if you want to wake up feeling refreshed and rested.
Interested to know what to eat before bed? Or what to avoid? Read on to find out more.
1. Stick to whole grains
Oats and whole-grain cereal are not just a breakfast food.
- Oats are rich in melatonin—a hormone that helps your body and muscles relax. They also contain vitamin B3, known to induce sleep, as well as complex carbs that will keep you full during the night.
- If you don’t feel that a simple bowl of cereal is enough to stop you raiding the fridge for a midnight snack, try whole-grain crackers with peanut butter. The combination of complex carbs and the tryptophan in peanut butter will definitely help you go out like a light. Not in the mood for a snack? For dinner, try turkey wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla or a whole-wheat mac n’ cheese
2. Give lean proteins a try
Proteins, like turkey and fish, are rich in tryptophan which relaxes the body and makes you sleepy.
- Fish not only contain tryptophan, but are also a source of healthy Omega 3 acids, another sleepy food. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, also have vitamin B6 that increases melatonin and serotonin levels in the body. If you want to really improve your sleep, cook fish in coconut oil and combine with brown rice and vegetables. This will increase the content of vitamins and carbohydrates, all known to encourage sleep.
- Turkey is not only delicious, but also very good for sleep quality. It is a rich source of lean protein that keeps muscles strong and able to repair themselves. It also contains tryptophan which is proven to provoke sleepiness and tiredness. If you are feeling peckish, why not try a simple turkey sandwich with whole-wheat toast? Or for dinner, give turkey burgers a go.
3. Fruit for a restful night
Fruits, particularly bananas and cherries, are highly recommended in helping people with insomnia improve their sleep behavior.
- Bananas are rich with minerals and vitamins like potassium and magnesium, both of which act as a natural sedative. What is more, vitamin B6, which is another muscle and nerve relaxant, is also found in bananas.
- Cherries are a natural source of melatonin and when consumed on a regular basis, contribute to a healthy and deep sleep. When cherries are out of season, cherry juice is a good substitute. Tart cherry juice is not only refreshing, but drinking it just before sleep can greatly improve your sleep quality and quantity.
4. Peanut butter to drift you off to sleep
- Tryptophan and magnesium, which increase serotonin levels, can be found in nuts, especially almonds and walnuts. Nuts also steady your heart rhythm allowing you to fall asleep more easily. You can eat almonds as a healthy evening snack or combine them in salads and stir-fry vegetables.
- Almond and peanut butter are also high in protein, which means that you feel full for longer. Nut butter is a great addition to whole-grain toast or crackers. Just remember to limit your portion to one tablespoon as eating more will cause you to feel bloated and will not have the desired effect.
5. Sleep better with herbs
- Some herbs, like sage and basil, are rich in chemicals that relieve some of the tension keeping you up at night. Basil goes great with pasta, while sage can be used as seasoning for pork and beef.
- Another option is herbal tea. Chamomile tea is proven to relax and soothe your nerves, especially before going to sleep. Combined with a drizzle of honey, it will give you a little bit of glucose without causing your blood sugar levels to spike. If you are not a fan of chamomile, give lavender, mint or passionflower tea a chance.
Drinking water is a must. Dehydration dries the mouth and nasal passages, which results in sleep disruptions, such as snoring and nocturnal leg cramps.
It may shock you to learn that due to the humidity of our breath, we lose almost one liter of water each night. This means that we wake up dehydrated. To fix this, it is not enough just to drink lots of water before bed. Hydration should be an essential part of your daily diet. Also, drinking fluids before bed can result in more sleepless nights due to frequent bathroom visits. So, for a sound slumber make sure you get enough water intake throughout the day.
7. When to eat?
Dietitians recommend eating a big meal at least two to three hours before bed. This is due to the fact that big or heavy meals will not allow your body to wind down making falling asleep almost impossible. If you must eat at night, make sure it is a light snack that can be easily digested. Otherwise, you will be struggling with indigestion and heartburn throughout the night.
8. Say no to sugary drinks, coffee and alcohol
- Coffee may be your best friend in the morning, but it can be your worst enemy at bedtime. Studies show that coffee stays in your system for at least 6 hours, so even if you have a cup in the late afternoon, it can still affect you when you go to bed. Also, caffeine prevents the release of certain chemicals that induce sleep.
- Fizzy drinks that contain a lot of sugar are also a big no-no at night. They raise your blood sugar levels and make you feel alert and energetic, conditions that are not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Sodas are also proven to increase the risk of insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
- Many people believe that alcohol encourages sleep, but in fact it can suppress breathing leading to a restless night and possible onset of sleep apnea. Furthermore, it may also play a part in the REM sleep stage by contributing to an increase in nightmares and vivid dreams.
Food and sleep tend to go hand in hand. If you are committed to a healthy lifestyle, you can’t have one without the other. Sleeping well contributes to a good and healthy diet, while eating the right food is a huge factor in better sleep quality. Hopefully, these tips will help you decide what to eat and drink before bedtime and that way ensure that your sleep is long and uninterrupted.