Healthy Diet for Better Sleep
Healthy Diet for Better Sleep

A poor night’s sleep contributes to a host of health conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, depression, poor blood sugar regulation or diabetes and more. Making small dietary changes can significantly impact your quality of sleep. Here are a few suggestions:

Eat a Balanced meal

First, it is important to eat well-balanced nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day.  Following this step will keep your blood sugar stable, so you won’t overeat during the day which can cause indigestion and restless sleep. Also, you won’t eat too little for dinner since you might find yourself waking up at night due to hunger.

Remove Food Intolerances

It is important to understand which foods your body is intolerant to.  Food intolerances can lead to various symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, joint pains, and various skin conditions.  Additionally consuming foods that one’s body is intolerant to can also lead to difficulty falling asleep and frequent night waking.  You can get tested to determine which foods your body is intolerant to.  To learn more, visit: https://www.nhchalton.com/lab-tests/food-intolerance/

Cut the Caffeine

Poor sleepers are also poor metabolizers of caffeine. Therefore, it is recommended to eliminate caffeine from your diet, which is a natural stimulant.  The usual half-life of caffeine is about 3-4 hours, hence people that consume caffeine around lunch time will still have some of the active chemicals present in their bodies 3-4 hours later.  Beware of hidden caffeine in chocolate, cola, tea, ice cream, decaffeinated coffee and even certain medications, such as pain relievers, weight loss pills, diuretics, and cold medicine. It is important to check the labels of all foods and nonprescription drugs to ensure it does not contain products that will interfere with your sleep.

Banish the Booze

Most people turn to alcohol to fall asleep.  It will help initially in falling asleep, however after a couple of hours when the effect wares off it will make your restless and sleepless. Alcohol initially enhances the effect of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is a relaxing neurotransmitter.  However, since the effects are enhanced, after a few hours the brain cells can no longer secrete GABA leading to a deficient GABA state resulting in poor sleep maintenance.

Consume Tryptophan-Rich Foods

Did your mother or grandmother ever offer you a warm glass of milk before bedtime so you can sleep better? 

That is because it is rich in tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or chemical that promotes relaxation and sleep.  Other foods high in tryptophan include nuts and seeds, bananas, honey, and eggs.

Turn to Carbs before Bedtime

Foods that are high in protein are great during the daytime.   However, when it comes to sleeping, enjoy a small carbohydrate-rich snack before bedtime. The carbohydrates have ample amount of tryptophan making you feel calm and sleepy.  Try snacking on any one of the following: a whole wheat toast, oats; banana, grapes, papaya, sweet potatoes, yams, green peas, pumpkin, etc.

Avoid Heavy and Spicy Foods

Eating a big heavy meal late at night is not recommended as it can cause indigestion and heartburn which will conflict with a goodnight’s sleep.  Ensure that you finish a heavy meal at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.

Fluid Restriction

Staying hydrated during the day is essential. However, if you want to reduce frequent washroom trips in the middle of the night, then avoid drinking any fluids within 2 hours before bedtime.  Small sips are acceptable if you need to take medications or take your medications earlier if a full glass of fluid is required.

Note:  Besides these dietary tips, there are many other ways that I as a Naturopathic Doctor can use to help you get better sleep.

Resources:

National Sleep Foundation. “Healthy Sleeping Tips.”
Thakkar MM, Sharma R, Sahota P. “Alcohol disrupts sleep homeostasis.” Alcohol. 2014 Nov 11. pii: S0741-8329(14)20115-7. 

 

HBSc, BEd, ND
Naturopathic Doctor & Clinic Director

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