The older I get, the more I crave better sleep. Have you ever laid down at night feeling totally exhausted, yet you struggle to keep your eyes closed? Or, you fall asleep and a few hours later you roll over and you are wide awake? I struggle with both of these issues! I have spent hours researching how to sleep better, but one thing I haven’t thought about is my nutrition. Is food affecting my quest for better sleep? We go to food for energy, but can those same foods be getting in our sleep’s way? I asked the wonderful Kelly Fraser who is the Founder of The Nutrient Solution and is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions about how my nutrition could be affecting my sleep.
1. Are there foods that can actually help you sleep better?
There isn’t one magical food for sleep, but a small snack high in fat before bed can help you sleep soundly through the night. Often times waking throughout the night is a sign of blood sugar dropping, and a snack will help stabilize this so you can sleep peacefully. My favorite bedtime snacks are a spoonful of a nut butter, coconut manna with a sprinkle of cinnamon, ½ an avocado, a handful of nuts, some olives, or a hard boiled egg. Magnesium before bed is also great for relaxing the body.
2. Are there foods I should avoid that can interfere with my sleep?
Absolutely! Caffeine, sugary foods, and alcohol. Some people find that dark chocolate and dairy keep them up as well. Try experimenting to see what works best for you.
3. I know caffeine is not helpful when it come to falling asleep and staying asleep. Are there any good substitutes to help boost energy in the afternoons when I need a good pick me up?
Instead of grabbing a 3pm coffee, try naturally boosting your energy by stepping away from your screens and going outside to walk around the block. The natural sunlight will wake you up and help regulate your circadian rhythm, which will make it easier to fall asleep that night. Other natural energy boosts include drinking water, sipping on maca, or enjoying a high fat or protein snack, such as almonds.
4. I have seen those “Nighty night” sleep herbal teas. Do those work and how?
Those teas are created with a blend that promote the body to relax, not actually fall asleep. The act of drinking any warm, caffeine-free tea will help the body to unwind and prepare for sleep. When looking for a nighttime tea blend look for any combo of chamomile, valerian root, passionflower and lavender.
5. Is there a time of day I should stop eating so I sleep better?
Ideally you should consume dinner 3 hours before bedtime to give your body plenty of time to fully digest. A light snack right before bed is totally fine though and can help improve sleep quality.
6. Staying hydrated is a BIG thing however I always get my sleep interrupted by having to pee in the middle of the night. Should I cut off the water intake before bed or just deal with it?
Try limiting your water intake 2 hours before bed.
7. I always fall asleep great after a nice glass of wine but I almost always wake up in the middle of the night wide awake! is this a coincidence or is this the alcohol interfering with my sleep cycle?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but while alcohol may help you fall asleep, it does interfere with your sleep cycle. It causes you to wake through the night and blocks REM sleep, the most restorative type, which leaves you feeling less refreshed in the morning. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to give up your wine, just try to have it at least 3 hours before bed to give your body ample time to process it.
8. How does sugar interfere with our sleep?
Consuming high amounts of sugar at anytime during the day, and especially in the evening, directly impacts sleep quality for the worse. Sugar consumption results in large spikes in our blood sugar that eventually has to dip and creates low blood sugar. In response, the adrenals send out the stress hormone cortisol, which can wake us in the night, even hours after consuming the sugar.
9. Have special diets ever helped people with insomnia?
There’s no need for a specialized diet to help with sleep. Instead, focus on eating real food like fresh fruits and vegetables, high quality meats and unprocessed carbohydrates while limiting processed foods, especially those with added sugar.
10. When choosing foods for better sleep always ______ NEVER _______
“pick real foods” / “anything processed”
So, don’t snooze on nutrition pillows fans!
Let us know how nutrition has helped you sleep better in the comments below!
Kelly Fraser, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner