Better Eating Habits: I Can't Sleep!

Having trouble sleeping? Try changing your diet for better sleeping habits.

Everyone knows that a poor night's sleep can leave you feeling moody and unproductive. Chronic sleep deprivation can decrease your levels of physical activity, lower your sex drive and clog your cognitive function. It has also been associated with weight gain. Crucial to your happiness is making the best effort to get a good night's sleep.

In addition to getting a good amount of physical activity early in the day (not too close to bed time or you’ll go to sleep feeling “amped up”), changing your diet and eating habits can help you catch up on some beauty rest and sleep through the night.

Get Rid Of Bad Pre-Bedtime Habits

Probably the most important change you can make to your diet are to eliminate the impediments to sleeping soundly. Here are some of the most common bad habits that keep people up at night:

  • No nightcaps: Sure, drinking a glass or two of wine will make you feel sleepy and might make it easier to fall asleep initially, but it actually disturbs your natural sleep patterns. Not only is drinking within a couple hours before sleep a definite no-no, but studies have also shown that alcohol consumed as much as six hours before bed can disrupt sleep.
  • Cut the caffeine: This one is a no-brainer. Caffeine is a proven effective way to give you a jolt of energy during the day, and that same jolt will keep you up at night. Plus, the effects of caffeine last longer than you might think: it takes six hours to rid your system of even half of the caffeine.
  • Lose the large meals: Eating large meals can make you feel tired, but that feeling is usually short- lived. The longer effects ultimately make you restless at night, as the body has to exert energy to digest. That surplus energy can keep your body feeling active while you are trying to fall asleep; try to finish your dinner well before you plan to go to bed. 
  • Bypass the beverages: It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day, but drinking too many liquids close to bedtime can make you prone to get up in the middle of the night for a trip to the restroom. Stop drinking liquids at least two hours before bed.

Natural Sleep Inducers

Now that you know what not to do before bed, here are two examples of nutrients to help you make it through the night without too much tossing and turning:

  • Tryptophan: A light snack containing tryptophan can help you sleep better. Tryptophan is an amino acid that has a calming effect on the body, stabilizing sleep patterns with the help of serotonin. Some tryptophan laden foods are turkey, milk and peanut butter. Because carbohydrates help the body process tryptophan, try pairing one of the foods listed above with a carb-rich partner: turkey on whole wheat bread or peanut butter on a graham cracker, for example.
  • Melatonin: This naturally occurring hormone helps regulate our sleep cycles. The National Institute of Health lists it as potentially effective in treating jet lag and sleeplessness. It has been shown to help people fall asleep quicker than without it, and can be found naturally in oats, sweet corn and many fruits and vegetables. As an alternative, melatonin substitutes are available at many stores, but should be used with caution; they are classified as dietary supplements and therefore not approved by the FDA.

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