A good night’s sleep is essential for your health and well being. Nothing is more frustrating than turning and tossing in your bed, unable to sleep. A lack of sleep causes stress and induces hormonal imbalance that can result in weight gain or an inability to lose weight. There are many factors that can influence your sleep pattern. In this article I’ll share a few tips, including the best and worst foods that can affect your sleep. Follow these tips and you will sleep like a baby.
Best Foods For Sleep
Cherries seem to top the lists. The reason for this status is that among natural foods, cherries contain the highest amount of sleep inducing melatonin. Unfortunately, cherries have a very short season and even though they can be imported from all over the world, they are not readily available.
I love tart cherries and every season I purchase a pail of them and just freeze them to have anytime. The other options are to have a glass of tart cherry juice or a handful of dried cherries before going to sleep.
In many cultures and for many generations children are given a glass of milk if they cannot sleep. It is interesting, because no one really knows why that is. Perhaps because babies usually fall asleep after a bottle of milk?
Many adults continue to drink milk when unable to fall asleep. Yet there is no scientific reason why milk makes us sleepy. Some people think that it is because milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is known to induce sleep. The problem with this theory is that the amount of tryptophan is very small and one would need to drink more than a gallon to get the sleep benefit from the tryptophan in milk. Likely it is a placebo effect as we remember the comfort from drinking milk when we were little.
Bananas are rich in magnesium and potassium. Magnesium is a mineral that functions to relax nerves and muscles. It also promotes healthy circulation. In general, bananas and other foods that are high in magnesium help to promote sleep. Some of the other examples of magnesium rich foods are avocados, nuts, spinach, oat brand and black beans.
Potassium is another mineral that promotes sleep by relaxing nerves and muscles. Like magnesium it also helps to improve circulation and in addition it improves digestion. Other potassium rich foods are leafy greens, fish, lima beans, lentils and citrus.
Fish is another food that helps you sleep better. It contains Omega 3, a healthy fatty acid that helps regulate blood pressure. Fish also triggers the release of melatonin and serotonin. Both these chemicals are essential for sleep. A nice sea food dinner may do wonders for your sleep.
Although fish oil is rich in Omega 3 there is no evidence that is has the same effect on sleep as fish does. To sleep better make sure to eat the real thing.
There are a number of fish that will make the cut. Just make sure that they are not contaminated with environmental contaminants such as mercury and PCB. Some of the safe fish include wild Alaska salmon, arctic char, Atlantic mackarel, sardines and anchovies.
Worst Foods For Sleep – Foods You Need To Avoid
Coffee contains caffeine which is a stimulant. Caffeine has a a half-life of five hours which means 25% of your afternoon coffee will still be in your body even 10 hours later. So if you have a coffee at 3 pm you may still be tossing and turning at 1 o’clock in the morning. Also some people do not metabolize caffeine efficiently and for those, falling asleep may be even harder.
You may not be aware of this but some treats and even some diet pills may contain caffeine. If you are not sure check the labels. Please note that for some people, regular tea may have the same effects.
I hate to do this, especially for you ladies, but chocolate, especially the dark chocolate is almost as bad as coffee. We are encouraged to eat dark chocolate because of its antioxidant property. Unfortunately, it contains relatively high amount of caffeine. To add insult to injury chocolate also contains theobromine, a compound that has effects similar to caffeine.
The good news is that we are talking about an entire chocolate bar so eating a couple of squares even in the evening may not affect your sleep.
I like dark (chocolate) cocoa which I make into hot chocolate (no sugar) that tastes like dark chocolate. I find that if I have it even earlier in the evening, I won’t get to sleep until the wee hours of the mornings. Make sure to stay away from cocoa and hot chocolate in the evening as well.
Interestingly, when you do not get enough sleep you crave fatty and sugary foods the next day. But when you eat fatty foods they will impact your sleep. This is a vicious cycle. To get out of that rut, don’t give in to your high-fat foods cravings and limit the intake of unhealthy fats such as found in fried foods.
Don’t forget though, you need to eat fat throughout the day as fat is important nutrient for our health, but limit it to about 30% of your total calorie intake.
The reason why fatty foods keep us awake at night is because certain brain chemicals become activated and interfere with our internal sleep-wake clocks.
Spicy foods are an excellent choice if you are trying to lose weight . The problem is that when you spice up your evening meals you will have a hard time falling asleep. Some people get a heartburn and that can cause quite a discomfort.
Aside from heart burn, spicy foods, especially the ones that contain capsaicin (chilli peppers), cause a rise in body temperature and it is believed that this effect prevents you from falling asleep. Your brain gets confused because normally, at sleep time our body temperature drops.
Non-food Tips To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Put A Pair Of Socks On
Sometimes to fall asleep quickly put on a pair of cotton socks. The socks will initially raise your body temperature. When your temperature goes up your blood vessels will dilate. This then will lead to a drop of temperature. A drop in body temperature naturally triggers sleep. You’ll get the rest you need and wake up refreshed.
Make sure to use socks that are loose and not tight around the ankles.
Turn Off Computers And Other Electronic Devices
Do not use electronic devices (even readers and television) one hour before you intend to go to sleep. First, these devices stimulate your brain activity and that keeps you thinking and tossing at bed time.
As well, the artificial light from many of these devices (including e-reades) interfere with sleep promoting chemicals including melatonin. As a result you may experience sleep disturbances and disruption of your circadian rhythms (our natural, internal clocks).
Relax With Lavender
You can spritz a lavender scented spray on your sheets before you go to bed. The scent will induce relaxation. It will lengthen your total sleep time and it will also better your sleep quality. Interestingly, this seems to work better for women likely because women seem to have a more developed sense of smell.
If you don’t like the smell of lavender, you can open your widows and freshen up your room. Fresh air also has soothing effect on your sleep.
In summary, people who get seven to eight hours of sleep every night are likely to live long and healthy life. A consistent good sleep, will help prevent many diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular problems, some cancers and others. Good night’s sleep every night will also help you lose weight and increase longevity. Too little sleep will throw off your body’s chemistry balance and you may gain weight, develop high blood pressure and diabetes (plus a host of other diseases).
There are plenty more tips to get a good night’s sleep but these are sufficient to start with. Hope you enjoyed these tips. I’d love to hear what works for you and what method helps you get to sleep. Please share your tip(s) below or on this site’s Facebook page.