Sleep deprivation is incredibly common amongst adults, with the vast majority of people reporting bouts of insomnia, restless or interrupted sleep at one point or another. A lack of sleep is a result of numerous factors, including stress, anxiety, medical conditions and personal habits. Regardless of the source of sleep issues, they’re unwelcome and can result in numerous consequences that affect your overall health and wellness if these issues persist.
One of the most important things you can do to improve your quality of sleep involves taking a look at your daily lifestyle, particularly your diet. Research has shown that the foods that you eat throughout the day have a significant impact on your quality of sleep at night. To better guarantee high-quality rest when it’s time to climb into bed, these diet tips should help.
Organizations such as the International Life Sciences Institute have long noted a correlation between the ingestion of substances that significantly alter your brain and body and chemistry, namely stimulants and depressants, and sleep quality. These substances can be consumed, and in certain doses can be beneficial for your health, but being mindful about the amount and time of day will go a long way in promoting sleep.
Because it takes about six hours to fully metabolize caffeine, drinking a cup of coffee, a can of soda or a mug of tea too late in the day will make it harder to relax at the end of the day. As well, drinking too much caffeine, even well before bedtime, can interfere with sleep. Caffeine stimulates your mind and body by blocking the production of sleep-promoting hormones, causing you to feel awake and alert even when it’s time to hit the hay.
Though it may seem as though alcohol should relax your system, drinking it too close to bedtime can cause you to toss and turn throughout the night. Alcohol is a depressant with sedative properties, so you may fall asleep easier after a few glasses. However, this substance interrupts your brain’s REM cycles during the night, and you’re more likely to wake up or experience only shallow sleep patterns that will leave you feeling fatigued in the morning.
Start the Day Right
There is a surprising link between the way you start the day and how easily it is for your body to relax at the end of the night. Because your blood sugar fluctuates throughout the day, it’s important to begin the morning with a healthy breakfast that includes healthy fats, fiber, whole grains and protein. Studies have revealed that those who skip breakfast tend to have a harder time falling asleep and often experience disrupted or poor sleep quality, while those who eat breakfast regularly sleep more soundly and doze off much more quickly.
Focus on Fiber
Your body needs a certain level of essential vitamins and minerals in order to function well. Dietitians note that fiber, in particular, can help you feel satiated, support bodily functions and, as a result, get better sleep. When your diet is low in fiber, you may sleep for shorter durations or experience nighttime restlessness. Beans, berries, whole grains, apples, dried fruit, legumes and pears are all high-fiber foods that can support a better night’s rest.
Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Because your body doesn’t produce these important nutrients by itself, it’s important to supplement your diet in order to get the omega-3 fatty acids that your system needs to function. The link between these healthy fats and sleep quality may have to do with a specific chemical in plant and animal sources of this nutrient that supports a healthy sleep-wake cycle. This means that omega-3s can help to regulate the internal circadian rhythms that let you know when it’s time to be alert and when it’s time for some shuteye.
Time Snacks Right
Everyone needs a bedtime snack every once in a while, but what you reach for, as well as when you eat it, can make it easier or harder to get to sleep. Going to bed too hungry can cause you to wake up during the night with hunger pangs. However, some snacks can cause blood sugar spikes or a level of mental and physical alertness that may cause you to remain awake on your pillow long after bedtime.
If you’re hungry within a couple hours of bedtime, it’s okay to grab a snack so that you can satisfy your system. To ensure you get high-quality rest after your late-night meal, aim for foods that are high in calcium, filled with vitamin B6, low in sugars and rich in potassium and fiber. Optimal bedtime snacks include oatmeal, cereal, bananas, nuts and eggs.
Drink Tart Cherry Juice
Melatonin, the chemical produced in your brain that signals that it’s time to wind down and get sleepy, is a key ingredient in tart cherries. In fat, consuming tart cherry juice has been compared to ingesting a designation melatonin supplement when it comes to effectively inducing sleepiness. If you do incorporate tart cherry juice into your nighttime routine, be sure to only drink 100% juice and not varieties with additional added sugars or ingredients.
Eat Foods with Magnesium
This mineral has numerous health benefits, from regulating mood, supporting muscle function and stimulating sleep-promoting brainwaves. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to certain mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, that make it harder to regulate your circadian rhythm and become relaxed enough to transition into sleep. Regular intake of magnesium-rich foods in study participants showed a notable decrease in the amount of time it took for participants to fall asleep and an increase in the amount of time they remained asleep throughout the night. Foods filled with magnesium include nuts, spinach, potatoes, black beans, bananas and yogurt.
Ingest More Iron
Though iron deficiency can make you feel extremely tired, too little iron can actually make it harder to get restorative sleep no matter how fatigued and ready for sleep you feel. Those who maintain iron levels in the normal range are less likely to experience iron-deficiency anemia, restless leg syndrome, mental fatigue and interrupted sleep. To make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep per night, and that you remain asleep until the sun comes up, it’s a good idea to load up on iron-heavy foods, including spinach, fortified cereals, tofu, lean meats, legumes and pumpkin seeds.
A healthful diet can go a long way in supporting a good night’s rest. If you regularly experience sleep interruptions or find it difficult to make it to dreamland night after night, these simple changes to your diet can make a significant difference in how you sleep, and you’ll be more likely to feel well-rested and ready to tackle whatever the day has in store.
If you find yourself reading this article and you already are checking off most of the boxes, you may need a consultation with a sleep study professional. Healthy eating and exercise alone may not be the only answer to your sleep deprivation. Call Alaska Sleep Clinic today for your free sleep assessment.
Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive multi-site sleep lab in Alaska with clinics in Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks and Soldotna; and we continue to expand our services to those with sleep disorders.