Do you struggle to get to sleep at night or find yourself waking up long before it’s time to get up? Perhaps you’ve tried pills, exercises, and aromatherapy and still got nowhere. If that’s the case, you’ll be pleased to hear that a simple change in eating habits is all some people need to be able to sleep deeply. Even if all that changes is what you have for supper, it can make a big difference.
Keep it light
There’s a popular myth that eating a big meal before bedtime will help you get to sleep. Unfortunately, though it may well make you feel tired, it will also get your digestive system moving, which is likely to keep you awake or at least reduce the quality of your sleep. It’s much better to have a light supper and, in particular, to avoid fatty and greasy foods, which require more effort to break down. Eat just enough to keep yourself from feeling hungry and allow your body to relax.
Do you ever wonder why, on Thanksgiving, everybody gets sleepy after finishing dinner? It’s not just because of the size of the meal – it’s because turkey contains a chemical called tryptophan, which has a specific effect on the brain. L-tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP and then into serotonin, a hormone that induces relaxation. If you’re bad at winding down at night, or if your sleep is interrupted by constantly intruding thoughts, foods containing tryptophan can be a big help.
Because it also helps to reduce generalized anxiety, many top online therapy companies recommend a diet rich in such foods. They’re most effective at improving sleep when eaten just before bedtime. This doesn’t have to mean eating turkey every night. Eggs and honey are also good, as are soybeans. Although eating fruit before bed is often a bad idea, some fruits won’t upset your stomach and will deliver useful quantities of tryptophan. Bananas, kiwi fruit, and avocados are especially good, while strawberries contain both tryptophan and another useful chemical called melatonin.
Melatonin is responsible for properly regulating the sleep cycle, and if you’re not getting enough of it, you may have problems with feeling sleepy in the middle of the day as well as struggling to get to sleep at night. Some people take supplements containing it, especially when they’re trying to overcome jet lag, but natural sources can help just as much (and usually cost less).
Nuts are an especially good source of melatonin, with almonds, peanuts, and walnuts right at the top of the list. Oats are also good, so snacking on oatcakes or oat biscuits at supper time works well. Vegetable sources include asparagus, broccoli, and olives, and if you crave something sweet, tart cherries are a great source. Even drinking tart cherry juice can be useful.
Despite what people may tell you, it’s not a bad thing to consume fluids before going to bed. Dehydration is just as likely to spoil your sleep as the need to get up and go to the toilet. The important thing is to work out the right amount of fluid. Get it right and you’ll not only sleep better, you’ll also wake up more naturally, feeling refreshed, at the right time.
Some drinks, consumed right before bedtime, can help you to sleep. For many people, hot milk does the trick. It contains some tryptophan, but many experts think the real reason is psychological because it’s associated with childhood.
A more direct effect can be achieved with chamomile or passionflower tea, both of which induce relaxation and are particularly helpful for people who have trouble getting their thoughts to slow down at night. If, on the other hand, you find that you’re often kept awake by crampy muscles or digestive discomfort, mint tea, which is a physical relaxant, might be a better choice.
What to avoid
Although many people use alcohol to help them get to sleep, that is problematic not only because it creates a risk of addiction but also because it makes it harder to stay asleep and to get good quality rest. Caffeine is also an obvious problem, and you really shouldn’t have any for at least four hours before bed. Be careful not to take it by accident – it’s found in many forms of medication, from painkillers to cold cures and slimming pills.
To avoid being woken by heartburn or digestive issues, you should also avoid acidic foods like citrus fruit and tomatoes late in the evenings. Some people find that they need to avoid spicy foods for similar reasons.
With so many choices available, it shouldn’t be hard for you to find something that works for you. Who knew that sleeplessness could have such a delicious solution?