Isn’t it funny how science is always going back and forth on what’s the best way to do things? And isn’t it even more fun how it seems like there is always something new that affects a person’s sleep? Yeah, okay. Not really. Sometimes it can seem like it’s impossible to still manage to get a decent night’s sleep in. That being said, though, one thing that science does agree on is this: what you eat and drink for your diet affects sleep quality.
Watching what you eat is one way to manage your sleep and improve your overall health. Here are some tips to improve your sleep quality by watching what goes into your mouth.
Your Diet Affects Sleep Quality: Tips to Sleep Better
It’s hard to fall asleep on an empty tummy – don’t feel bad if you need to eat a small snack before bed.
Some research shows that when we indulge in a small, healthy snack before bed, then our body will use the hormone leptin to suppress the secretion of another hormone called ghrelin.
In other words, we can have one of the two hormones at work. One will help us feel sated, full, and then we can go to bed. The other, kinda-like-a-gremlin hormone, will keep us awake, wanting to eat.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any gremlins – or to wake up too hungry to sleep at 2 AM.
That being said, don’t eat everything in the fridge.
Eating too much, too close to bedtime can give you heartburn. And that can aggravate gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD or reflux) which will make you very uncomfortable while sleeping.
This is because your digestive system slows down while sleeping, which is totally natural. And if you do eat too much, you may wake up feeling uncomfortable and bloated the next morning. So when it comes to a heavy meal, eat it at least four hours before heading to bed.
Choose Your Macronutrients Carefully
If you are hoping to have a peaceful sleep, you will want to reach for whole-grain and complex carbohydrates before bed. That means you should avoid white flour and most processed foods.
Cut Back on Sugar
Sugar may be delicious, but it is definitely not nutritious. Refined sugar’s not a high-quality choice pretty much ever. Avoid rapid blood sugar swings by keeping your sugar intake under control.
Too much protein at bedtime, especially if it’s in a heavy meal with lots of fats, can lead to that feeling too-full or bloating. When in doubt, grab a small handful of nuts or a bit of yogurt to tide you over until morning.
Fats are a great source of nutrition – but eating too many of them before bed can cause issues with bloating and constipation.
Limit Caffeine after Noon
Caffeine is a wonderful thing. When used in properly, it’s a stimulant that can help you be more alert, stay awake, and get up and go.
However, it’s a poor dietary choice when you are already experiencing sleep difficulties. If you have issues falling asleep, try to cut caffeine out of your lifestyle as much as possible. If you have to have your morning fix, though, limit it to before noon.
Oh, and don’t forget those hidden sources of caffeine! Yes, that includes chocolate and some sodas.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Look, this is another one of those topics that science can’t seem to make its mind up on. The latest research says that drinking alcohol has no benefits – in direct contradiction to the previous research that said a glass of wine had great health benefits due to antioxidants.
That being said, most scientists agree that alcohol at bedtime can cause problems. It can cause your body to skip REM (rapid eye movement) and send you right into a deep sleep. Which, while that sounds like a great idea, actually isn’t. Because now your sleep cycle is all sorts of messed up – and as the alcohol wears off, you’re going between light and deep sleep with fewer REM cycles and less restorative sleep.
In other words, this is why people often feel more tired after a night of drinking even if they slept it off for a good amount of time.
Personally, I choose not to drink alcohol. But if you do choose to drink, please imbibe responsibly – for both your sleep and for other’s health and safety. Especially if there’s any driving involved – use a designated driver.
A good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be some elusive unicorn, I promise. You can get better sleep each night – especially as you become more intentional about what you eat, know that your diet affects sleep, and you practice regular meditation with these relaxation techniques.