It’s true that eating a healthy, balanced diet can provide lots of benefits in our everyday lives. It can give us the energy to get through the day, help us maintain an ideal weight, and it can also keep our bodies healthy and functioning well. But aside from that, did you know that what we eat and drink also affects our sleep? It can be surprising to know that food can have a huge impact on the quality of sleep.
Eating and drinking to get better sleep is more than just avoiding caffeine and heavy foods at night. It’s because aside from the foods to avoid, there are also foods and drinks that can actually help you fall asleep faster and give you quality sleep. Today, we are going to discuss how foods and drinks can affect your sleep.
How Foods and Drinks Affect Your Sleep
According to some researchers, eating and drinking poor quality and highly processed carbohydrates like sweets, noodles, energy drinks, and sugary drinks are associated with poor sleep quality. Based on the TEMPUR sleep survey results, 40% of participants who ate fast food less than once every week enjoyed good sleep compared to 15% of those who ate fast food every day.
These studies suggest that what you eat and drink before bed can affect your sleep. For example, foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is a building block of the sleep-related chemical serotonin, could possibly make you sleepy. However, the evidence is mixed as to whether the amount of foods is enough to change your sleep. One of the popular tryptophan sources is turkey which is the notorious cause of the post-Thanksgiving nap.
Aside from that, there’s also a connection between sleep and how we metabolize food. Our diet and food choices help in regulating our circadian rhythms which keep our body clock running on time and which keeps all of our bodily functions running on a schedule including falling asleep at night, waking up in the morning, and feeling hungry when energy is needed. This means that changing our eating patterns or changing what we eat drastically can reprogram our body clocks, putting them on a different time zone. This is the reason why what and when we eat affects sleep.
What Foods and Drinks Can Help You Sleep Better?
Before we give you a list of the foods and drinks that can help you sleep better, it is great to look at your diet as a whole first. If you find it difficult to sleep or stay asleep, making some changes to the way you eat can be beneficial. You can try to find a balance in the way you eat every day. Eat balanced and nutritious meals and snacks, evenly spaced throughout the day. You can also avoid skipping meals early on in the day, to then eat a large meal at night.
Here are some of the foods and drinks that promote more restful nights:
- Complex Carbs
Avoid eating white bread, refined pasta, and sugary, baked foods because these can reduce serotonin levels and impair sleep. Instead of eating these foods, you can opt for whole grains for your bedtime snack such as whole-wheat crackers with nut butter, oatmeal, and popcorn.
Nuts are great sources of heart-healthy fats. Also, nuts like almonds and walnuts contain melatonin which can help in regulating your sleep and wake cycle. Eating nuts can also help increase your blood levels of the hormone which in turn, will help you sleep more soundly.
- Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is high in lean protein and it is also packed with the amino acid tryptophan which can increase your serotonin levels. Low levels of serotonin can contribute to insomnia, therefore, eating cottage cheese can increase its levels. You can also sweeten up cottage cheese by adding raspberries to it which are known to be rich sources of melatonin.
- Hot Tea
A cup of hot tea at night can be a perfect relaxing ritual. You can choose among chamomile, peppermint, and ginger which are all calming choices for bedtime.
- Warm Milk
Just like tea, a warm cup of milk can also provide the perfect soothing backdrop for a relaxing bedtime routine. There may be some scientific link between the tryptophan and melatonin content of milk and improved sleep. However, the psychological link between warm milk and bedtime as a child is more powerful.
There are certain fruits that contain melatonin which can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during your sleep. Some of the good sources of melatonin are whole tart cherries, pineapple, bananas, and oranges. Also, if you are suffering from insomnia, you can try eating two kiwis before bed because that can increase your sleep duration by an hour over the course of one month.
What Foods and Drinks Should Be Avoided to Achieve Quality Sleep?
If there are foods and drinks that can promote high-quality sleep, there are also foods that can hinder you from having a good night’s sleep. Here are some of them:
Sugar can provide a temporary energy boost. It can elevate your blood sugar levels, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
- Fatty Foods
You should also avoid eating fatty foods if you want to sleep better. It’s because fat stimulated the production of acid in the stomach which can lead to heartburn and hinder your sleep.
- Spicy Foods
Eating spicy foods, especially at night, can also result in a poor night’s sleep. It can also result in heartburn which can lead to further sleep-related problems.
It can take about 6 hours for our bodies to metabolize caffeine. Therefore, it is best to avoid drinking coffee or eating foods with caffeine past late afternoon. This also includes dark chocolate and energy drinks.
Alcohol can cause you to wake up repeatedly multiple times while sleeping at night. Aside from that, it can also cause you to snore, which also affects your sleep quality and even the sleep of other people in your room.
It is indeed important to know how foods and drinks affect the body so that we can stay alert during the day and avoid the agony of sleeplessness at night. We hope the information we shared helped you in understanding how what we eat and drink affects our sleep. If you’re having troubles sleeping at night, you can check out our post on Using Aromatherapy as a Sleep Aid for more tips.