You’ve heard the mantra a million times: get eight hours of sleep every night. A good night’s sleep is the first step to having a productive day, every day. Furthermore, research has shown that people who enjoy restful sleep also enjoy better weight control. It might come as a surprise to you that despite the recommendation of not eating within 2 to 4 hours of bedtime, there are a few dietary habits that can aid you in falling and staying asleep.
First and foremost, refrain from drinking caffeine after 2 p.m. and limit, better yet, abstain from, alcohol in the evening. Caffeine’s obvious effects can keep you from falling asleep even up to 8 hours later, while alcohol will prevent you from having restful sleep. Try to eat a dinner abundant in protein, calcium and magnesium. Protein (especially egg whites, cheese, poultry and red meat), is rich in the amino acid L-tryptophan, which can be converted to serotonin and melatonin, two hormones associated with sleep. Calcium and magnesium are known to calm your mind and can be found in nuts (especially almonds), dairy, broccoli and chick peas. Drinking diluted tart cherry juice in the evening has also been shown to increase melatonin levels, increase total sleep time and sleep efficiency.
Eating dinner early (i.e. between 5 and 7 p.m.), may cause you to become hungry by 10 or 11 p.m. Choose a snack that won’t fill you up or upset your stomach, like bananas, nuts or oatmeal/grains. Remember: try not to eat new foods in the off chance your stomach reacts poorly. A salad consisting of fruit (e.g. apples and pears) is known to calm the GI tract. Chamomile tea with ginger also aids digestion and settles the GI tract – just don’t drink too much that you have to wake up to use the bathroom throughout the night.
Finally, try to establish both sleep-wake and eating schedules. Instead of eating 3 big meals, aim for 5 smaller meals so you’re not ravenous when it’s time for bed. When sleep deprived, it is instinct to reach for comfort food to help you feel more normal. Instead, reach for fruits which fill you up without being too high in calories. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Less variability in your waking hours and meals will help you become regimented and may even help you achieve those elusive eight hours of sleep.