Did you know that food choices can influence how well you sleep at night? And brace yourself, because it’s not just spicy and rich ingredients that affect sleep—it’s also the foods you don’t eat, and when you eat, that impact sleep quality.
To start, know that nutritional deficiencies can act as a barrier when it comes to getting the sleep you need. The most common that affect sleep are:
· Lack of omega 3s
· Magnesium deficiency
· Iron deficiency
· Zinc deficiency
What to Eat to Help You Sleep Better
Fish: Salmon, halibut, and tuna are great sources of vitamin B6, which is needed to create melatonin, our natural sleep hormone.
Chia and Flax Seeds: Both are a good source of magnesium and are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Whole Grains: Bulgur, barley, and other whole grains are rich in magnesium.
Leafy Greens: Kale, spinach, and collard greens are a source of iron as well as calcium. Calcium has been proven to reduce stress, making it easier to sleep.
Almonds: Just a few almonds can push you into a state of slumber. In addition to containing magnesium, they also contain tryptophan, which can help steady your heart rhythm and nerves.
Cherries and Bananas: Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep cycles. Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, which supports melatonin production.
3 Ways to Eat for Better Sleep
1. Dinner, then sleep.
As your body starts to wind down at night, so does your digestive system. When you eat large quantities or rich foods too close to bedtime, your body resists slowing down, making it harder to fall asleep. Meals should decrease in size and complexity as the day goes on, but make sure your dinner is rich in lean proteins and fiber, keeping you full until morning.
2. Sugar and sleep don’t mix.
When you don’t get enough sleep, the hormone that regulates hunger, called ghrelin, goes into overdrive. Unfortunately, that also means that the hormone that tells you when you’re full decreases. Those sleepless nights can create a vicious cycle that leaves you reaching for junk food, and then not being able to sleep due to ingesting high-sugar and high-fat foods.
3. Smart bedtime snacks.
If you have difficulty falling asleep, having a small snack before bedtime could help. Remember, don’t turn that small snack into a large meal though, or your digestive system will be working too hard to sleep. A whole-grain bowl of cereal with almond milk or a few seed crackers topped with almond butter, flaxseed, or chia seeds should hit the spot.
While you should avoid having too many fluids too close to bedtime, you can also try including chamomile tea. This tea can help reduce anxiety and bring on a sense of calm, which is exactly how you want to feel at bedtime.
Alanna McGinn is the founder and Certified Sleep Expert of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She is the host of the “This Girl Loves Sleep” podcast and author of This Baby Loves Sleep. Alanna has established Good Night Sleep Site as a #1 sleep resource for families, and she and her team of sleep consultants strive in helping families (baby to adults) and corporations overcome sleep challenges. You can find out more about Alanna at goodnightsleepsite.com and follow all her sleep tips on Instagram.
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