Getting enough sleep is an important factor in leading a healthy lifestyle. For many adults meeting requirements for sleep is a challenge. Choosing foods that help you sleep could be a key ingredient to a better nights rest and reaching your health and fitness goals.
How does nutrition affect sleep?
Healthy sleep and healthy eating habits compliment each other. The food you eat can have an impact on your sleep patterns and the hours of sleep you are getting or losing. Likewise, the quality and amount of sleep you are getting, will impact on your food intake.
How does sleep affect weight loss?
Sleep deprivation can cause a decrease in metabolism as well as an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. When you are tired you are also less likely to have the patience, energy and concentration to make healthy food choices. Studies show that adults who do not get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night are at risk of gaining weight.
Lack of sleep also has an impact on the hormone cortisol. Blood levels of cortisol rise under times of stress and not getting enough sleep is definitely a stressor on the body. Prolonged elevations in cortisol can lead to weight gain, impaired blood sugar control, high blood pressure and put a strain on your immune system.
Here are a few nutrition tips to help you make healthy changes to improve your sleep at night.
Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine is known to be a stimulant and we rely on it during the day to keep us energized and alert. Caffeine can remain in the bloodstream for 6-8 hours. If you know that you are especially sensitive to caffeine, try to keep your cup of joe to the morning hours and stay away as the day goes on.
Space meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. Eating too much or too little at the end of the day can keep you from falling asleep. Eating a large meal too close to bedtime can make you feel stuffed and uncomfortable, making it hard to catch some z’s while eating too little may cause rumbles in your tummy.
Limit alcohol, especially at bed time. It not only can disrupt sleep patterns but it may increase symptoms of sleep apnea as well as cause snoring.
What nutrients help you to sleep?
Some research shows that foods high in magnesium and B vitamins can help induce sleep. Magnesium may help relax muscles while B vitamins may help improve sleep by regulating tryptophan, an amino acid which creates serotonin, a hormone which facilitates sleep.
Foods high in magnesium include: leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard, nuts and seeds, salmon, tempeh, soy beans and whole grains.
Foods high in B vitamins include: greens, beans and lentils, soy beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Try having a light snack at night if your tummy rumble is keeping you up. This could be a slice of whole grain toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter, whole grain cereal and milk, trail mix or even a small smoothie.
The combination of different foods will help sleep in many ways, from providing the building blocks of tryptophan to triggering melatonin production and transfer. Even when a late snack may be beneficial, avoid going overboard because too much food can hinder sleep.
Should I only rely on foods that help sleep?
Include regular exercise to help promote good sleep, but remember to limit intense activity too close to bed time. Exercising later at night can rev you up too much and keep you from falling asleep.
Consider meditation or other relaxation techniques close to bedtime to help destress and declutter your mind.
What about natural supplements or herbs?
In addition to these tips and tricks, there are some herbal remedies that have been shown to be safe in improving sleep. Although research is limited, valerian, supplemental melatonin and chamomile tea have all shown some benefits in promoting good sleep.
Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking these herbal remedies for sleep as they may interact with some medications.
Getting enough sleep can be a challenge for some, but tweaking your food intake throughout the day can work wonders in helping you achieve a restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep.