Sleep is one of the most crucial components of good health. It affects nearly every area of our lives—from our ability to concentrate at work to the way we treat our kids. By now you’ve probably heard of good sleep hygiene, bedtime routines, and daily sleep requirements (sleep experts recommend eight to ten hours). But did you know that what you eat every day can have a huge impact on how you sleep? Yes—food affects how we feel in so many ways!
Here are a few of our favorite things to eat and drink (or avoid) when we’re trying to get that coveted good night’s sleep.
Protein and Good-for-You Fats
We tend to gravitate toward sugar at night (after-dinner sweet tooth, anyone?) but that dessert that tastes great will actually keep you awake. If you’re hungry after dinner, choose a small quantity of something that will satiate you and limit extreme spikes in blood sugar. We like avocado with a hard-boiled egg, a handful of nuts or OM POWER MIX, or a snack-size OM POWER PROTEIN shake.
Fatty fish is a great choice for a sleep-inducing dinner. According to a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, fish (especially tuna, salmon, and halibut) contain vitamin B6, which is essential in the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone found naturally in the body.
Chamomile is an herb that people have used for centuries to treat various medical complaints. German chamomile can be used to treat wounds, abscesses, psoriasis, diaper rash, eczema, and even chicken pox. It is commonly used as a poultice or diffused in a bath. Chamomile tea, specifically, has also been proven to aid in sleep. Chamomile has natural calming properties and can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.
Caffeine’s chief responsibility is to wake you up and give you energy, so it probably comes as no surprise that experts suggest you avoid it close to bedtime. But how close? Most recommendations advise that you stop your caffeine consumption at least six to eight hours before trying to fall asleep.
(Too Much) Water
We LOVE water, and hydration is so important to our overall wellbeing. However, middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom are not very fun, and it can be hard to fall back to sleep afterwards. Refrain from drinking lots of fluid right before bedtime, and you’ll have a greater chance of avoiding those sleep-disturbing bathroom trips.
Alcohol can be deceiving—at first glance, it helps you fall asleep faster. However, those who consume alcohol before bed are much more likely to wake in the middle of the night and be unable to fall back asleep. It can also cause you to wake feeling as if you haven’t rested at all due to its interference with REM sleep, the restorative component of the sleep cycle. If you’re going to imbibe, enjoy one glass of wine with dinner at least a few hours before you attempt sleep.
If your stomach can’t take the heat, it’s probably best to avoid it before bedtime. Spicy foods can cause an overproduction of stomach acids, which can lead to a lot of discomfort when lying down. If you like it hot, it might be best to save your spicy dishes for lunch so your stomach has time to settle before you lay down in your bed.
If You Still Can’t Sleep
If you've cleaned up your evening eating habits and sleep still eludes you, not to worry. Try these other sleep-promoting strategies:
Purchase blackout curtains. Light coming in through the window can upset your circadian rhythm. Luckily, light-blocking curtains can help fix that.
Upgrade your mattress. Experts recommend changing your mattress every eight years to avoid pain and poor sleep. There are plenty of comfortable and affordable mattresses on the market, or you can opt for a lower-cost mattress topper.
Use a white noise app. Noise can be distracting as you're trying to sleep, but a white noise app can help you block out distracting sounds. Some apps offer a huge selection of relaxing sounds.
A few changes in your sleep environment, combined with a sleep-friendly diet, will get you well on your way to a great night’s sleep. Sweet dreams, Transformers!