When it comes to getting a good night of sleep, our bodies are very sensitive to all kinds of input, from being stressed to certain lighting conditions, noise, and temperature.
But there is another factor that can affect the quality of our nightly rest, and that is the food we eat. As you’ve probably heard, it’s not a good idea to have a heavy dinner, as this tends to slow down the digestion process and can result in heartburn or discomfort, and so make it difficult to fall asleep.
This is why it’s important to choose what we eat carefully, especially in the evenings. Here are some suggestions on what to eat and what to avoid eating to rest better.
What To Eat To Ensure You Rest Better
When planning your weekly dinners, go for foods that are easily digested. In fact, there are some things you can eat that have a calming effect on the body and mind. These include:
- Green leafy vegetables that are high in calcium, such as kale. The process of metabolising calcium increases melatonin production, and this hormone can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Anything rich in B6 vitamin, which has a boosting effect on melatonin production too. Some examples include sweet potatoes, spinach, and whole grain cereals.
- Fruits with a high magnesium content, as this mineral acts as a muscle relaxant. The best bet are bananas, which are also easily digested. You should also consider fruits with melatonin, like cherries, pineapples, and oranges.
- Look for anything that contains tryptophan. This is an essential amino acid that has been successfully used to treat insomnia, since it has a positive impact on body clock and increases melatonin and serotonin production. Good sources of tryptophan include chicken, turkey, milk, yogurt (or any dairy product), bananas, and almonds.
- Include things with a high glycemic index or high in carbohydrates, since studies have shown they can shorten the time it takes you to fall asleep by as much as 50%. The majority of people tend to stay away from food rich in carbohydrates during the day, as these foods make them feel sluggish, but this is actually a positive thing in the late evening. Some examples include white rice, jasmine rice, and cereals, especially if you have them with skim milk and they have no added sugar.
And remember that some beverages can help too, especially those with a sedative or calming effect. Top choices to consider include teas made with valerian, passionflower, or hops, and lemon balm infusion.
What To Avoid Eating For A Good Nightly Rest
- Avoid eating anything with high sodium or salt levels, as they’ll make you feel thirsty. You want to avoid things like canned soups or ready-made meals, as well as some snacks like store-bought crisps.
- Anything that’s high in sugars, whether natural or added, since these have an energizing effect on the body, which is exactly the opposite of what you need.
- Think twice before eating anything spicy, as these foods increase the body temperature and make it hard to fall asleep. Moreover, these foods are known to be causes of heartburn.
- Anything fried or deep fried, as this can easily cause indigestion. The same goes for anything high in saturated fats.
- Anything high in fibre, as it may cause gas and bloating. If you have a sensitive stomach, leave these choices for daytime meals.
- Avoid eating anything acidic, such as tomatoes or grapefruit, especially if you get heartburn easily.
- Drinks containing sugar and caffeine should also be avoided for at least 8 hours before your usual bedtime. Obviously, this applies to tea, coffee, and sodas but also to dark chocolate, which contains caffeine.
And while having a glass of wine or beer before bed may seem like a good idea, it’s better to cut off or to limit alcohol to improve your chances of sleeping soundly. This is particularly important if you have disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea, since alcohol worsens the symptoms.
Late night snacks and large meals at dinner time should be avoided in general or only kept to special occasions. But these are specially detrimental to people with sleep disorders. Several studies have shown that late night eating is a risk factor for apnea disorders, and large meals can irritate or cause blockages in the upper airways, which will worsen the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea.
Of course, if you suffer from an apnea disorder, modifying your dinner choices is only one part of the process towards better health. Medicine has come a long way and there are treatments that will help you get a better rest every night.
You can call SleepQuest at any time, to talk with a sleep specialist via video conferencing.
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