Insomnia affects nearly one third of the general population, which means most people aren’t getting the sleep they need. Sleep can affect our mood, energy levels, weight gain, memory, immunity, risk for chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease), and can even affect coordination, physical ability, and balance. While sleep deprivation can be caused by a wide variety of factors, there are simple and fun tricks related to diet that you can try to help improve the quality of your sleep.
- Limit Caffeine Intake: This one seems like a no brainer; however, many people are not mindful of what time they are consuming caffeine. Figure out what works best for your body and have a strict cut off time for caffeine. For example, I usually stop my caffeine intake around 3:00 pm to ensure a restful sleep that night. Furthermore, be aware that some products like chocolate, tea, decaf coffee, and certain medications also contain varying amounts of caffeine, so you may want to avoid these at night as well.
- Eat foods naturally containing melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is primarily released naturally by the pineal gland. However, as we age, melatonin release decreases and having inadequate melatonin levels negatively affects the quality of our sleep. But there is good news! Research studies have found that eating melatonin-rich foods can assist us in getting better, more restful sleep. Consider trying these melatonin-rich foods one hour before bedtime: grapes, strawberries, kiwis, tart cherries, tomatoes, peppers, almonds, and pistachios.
- Be Mindful of Trigger Foods: If you suffer from acid reflux, GERD, or heartburn, you may want to pay attention to what you are consuming before bedtime. Do not eat trigger foods at least three hours before lying down for bedtime, as lying down can make heartburn worse and thus, hinder sleep. Trigger foods for GERD or heart burn include: peppermint, citrus foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, acidic foods, and spicy foods.
- Embrace Complex Carbohydrates: Simple carbs have been shown to reduce serotonin levels, thus reducing sleep quality. Try limiting simple carbs and increase complex carbs through whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, and brown rice. More examples of complex carbs also include oatmeal, potatoes, black beans, and squash.
- Season with Specific Herbs: A variety of fresh herbs can have a calming effect. For example, sage, basil, and chamomile contain chemicals that reduce tension, so using these herbs may help promote more restful sleep. However, be mindful that certain spices like black pepper and red pepper can have the opposite effect.
- Add Physical Activity: Exercising during the day can help us have more quality sleep at night. Moderate exercise (30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week or 150 minutes total) has been found to lower stress levels, which is a popular cause of insomnia in many. However, try to not exercise right before bedtime as this may cause your body and mind to become more alert, leading to difficulties falling asleep.
- Try Supplements: Adding a dietary supplement to your daily routine may help to promote quality sleep. Have you heard of NatureKue’s two latest supplements, MemorySupport and KingSupport? Two capsules daily work to provide you with sounder, more restful sleep, while also providing other positive health benefits in the process!
While more research needs to be done regarding sleep and nutrition, many studies have found that making small tweaks in diet can make huge improvements in sleep quality. Wishing you all restful sleep and no counting sheep!