Having trouble sleeping at night? Your diet could be what is keeping you awake when you are supposed to be snoozing.
Just like there are items (like coffee) that keep your mind active at night, there are also food that promote restful slumber and help to regulate sleep cycles. Let’s look at some of these items and see if a different diet can change your sleeping patterns.
Sleep Better with These Food
Tart cherries are an excellent natural source of melatonin and antioxidants. Researchers have discovered that drinking a glass of tart cherry juice in the mornings and evenings can enhance sleep and may even reduce insomnia in some cases.
Rich in fiber and vitamins, tart cherries also contain anti-inflammatory properties which might aid in reducing swelling and discomfort after vigorous exercise.
Carbs – love, them, hate them, can’t live without them. While many diets wave a disapproving finger at carbs, you should know that not all carbs are evil.
If you’d like to have some before bed though, it’s best to skip the white bread and refined pastas. Choose whole grains instead, which can trigger insulin production and lead to a rise in blood sugar, making you feel sleepy. Nothing says cozy better than a bowl of warm, creamy oatmeal. Fun fact: Oats are a great source of melatonin!
Kiwi is one powerful fruit, full of sleep-enhancing compounds. They are packed with melatonin, serotonin, vitamins, folate and antioxidants. Studies have found that adults who consume two kiwis an hour before bed, generally fell asleep faster and have longer periods of uninterrupted sleep.
Go nuts! Almonds, walnuts and pistachios all contain high doses of melatonin, magnesium and calcium. Clinical studies have shown that consuming a serving of these nuts daily can aid with insomnia. Further, these nuts are chock-full of good fats and are low in sugar, making them a healthy bedtime snack.
Fatty fish is abundant in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which help regulate serotonin. One study discovered that children gained an extra hour of sleep every night if they took a daily dose of omega-3 supplements.
Fatty fish are also high in a few other sleep-promoting nutrients, such as magnesium, calcium and folate. One fatty fish stands out in particular – salmon. In a study conducted a few years ago, participants who consumed 300 grams of Atlantic salmon, thrice a week, over a period of six months, reported faster sleep onset.
Food to Avoid
This may sound like a no-brainer – after all, everyone knows that coffee keeps you awake. But did you know that apart from coffee, there are also other food that are deceptively high in caffeine (which you may be consuming)?
One of these is chocolate. So, if you’ve been drinking a cup of hot cocoa before bed, it’s time to switch up your bedtime indulgence. Soda like cola and root beers also typically contain significant amounts of caffeine. Pain-relieving drugs, headache and cold medicines, weight loss pills, diuretics and herbal remedies, often also contain caffeine. Be sure to take a closer look at the labels before popping any of these before bedtime.
High-protein, high-fat food
Research has linked high-protein and high-fat food to low-quality sleep. Protein has been shown to reduce the availability of the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce serotonin.
Meanwhile, fat increases the chances of getting acid reflux and heartburn, as it stimulates acid in your digestive system – so it’s not the best idea to lie down with a belly-full of fatty food! Studies have also indicated that people with a diet high in saturated fats spend less time in the stage of deep sleep (known as slow wave sleep).
Studies have shown that consuming spicy food resulted in a significant increase in participants’ total “awake time”, as well as the time it took for them to fall asleep. This is because spicy food usually contains capsaicin, which can irritate the digestive tract and even promote acid reflux.
Some research also suggests that the thermogenic properties of spicy foods may increase the body’s core temperature. Our bodies naturally cool down when preparing to sleep, so the rise in heat makes it less comfortable to fall asleep.
Although having a nightcap may help you fall asleep faster, alcohol prevents you from entering the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) part of your sleep cycle, which is where restful sleep and dreaming occurs. Drinking alcohol also increases the chance of waking up throughout the night and disturbing your partner – a definite no-no if you want a happy relationship!
You can mitigate this issue with a quality mattress that can reduces the disturbance that your partner feels, although waking up several times over the night will still impact the quality of your sleep. The best solution is to simply skip the alcohol before bedtime.
Need a helpful reminder of what food to eat (and avoid)? Just stick this list onto your fridge, so you’ll know what to take (and what not to) if you really must grab a bite before going to bed.
Good night and sleep tight! 💤
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