Poor sleep has been linked to a host of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, high-blood pressure, depression, and more. A 2012 study found that the more tired you are, the more you eat during the day in attempt to perk yourself up, which can easily add up to weight gain over time.
According to everydayhealth.com, there’s no set menu for eating for better sleep but there are little tweaks you can make all day for a more restful night.
The first step toward better sleep
Eat balanced, nutritious meals and snacks evenly spaced throughout the day. Eat too little during the day, and you’ll overstuff yourself in the evening, leading to a night of tossing, turning, and indigestion. Eat too little for dinner, and you might find yourself lying awake, longing for a trip to the fridge.
If you have GI issues such as gluten or lactose intolerance, eating these foods in the evening can sabotage your sleep, too. Take time to learn your GI triggers, such as spicy food or alcohol, and avoid them, so you can drift off discomfort free. It’s also important to aim to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day — experts say this will keep your stomach and your brain on a similar sleep schedule.
Skip sugar and caffeine
According to the National Sleep Foundation, consuming more than three 8-ounce cups of caffeine a day may impact sleep, and six or more cups is considered to be excessive intake. Because the body takes about six hours to metabolize caffeine, drinking or eating foods with caffeine is not recommended within several hours of lights out.
Sugar has also been tied to sleep problems. A study at the University of California, San Francisco, found that children with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have trouble sleeping if they have elevated blood-sugar levels. Because sugar gives you a temporary energy boost, it’s best to avoid sugar and other processed foods shortly before bed.
Reach for complex carbs
Studies show that the best bedtime snack is one with complex carbs and a little bit of protein, such as cereal with milk or a small piece of whole-wheat bread with a dab of peanut butter.If you want to go to sleep quickly, research indicates that eating the majority of your daily recommended amount of carbohydrates at night will help.
Sip a soothing drink
One clinical trial found that chamomile can reduce anxiety in humans, and in large doses, help animals sleep, but more trials need to be conducted to see if the same holds true for humans. A study at Yale University found that hot drinks can help people feel less lonely and more secure — both factors that can contribute to a good night’s sleep.
Beef up B vitamins
B vitamins can contribute to good sleep but not immediately. Food such as poultry, fish, chickpeas, and bananas (containing B6) do help the body process tryptophan and turn it into sleep-inducing serotonin faster.
B3, also known as niacin, is a common ingredient in herbal sleep aids because it can extend your REM cycle and limit the number of times you wake up in the middle of the night.
Go fish and sleep well
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon, halibut, and anchovies can also enhance your brain’s secretion of melatonin, which is thought to be the body’s sleep signal.
To reap the sleep benefits of omega-3s, eat a 3-ounce serving of fish at least twice per week. Alternatively, supplement your diet with a daily fish-oil capsule, but doctor your doctor before beginning any supplement routine.
Call on calcium
Several studies have shown that certain minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, are natural sleep aids because they help regulate the body’s normal sleep cycles. A study published in the European Neurology Journal found that calcium levels in the body are higher during the deepest levels of the sleep, including the REM cycle. To keep your sleep functioning normally, aim to consume three to four servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy each day or add calcium supplements to your diet.