From what you eat to when you eat it, your diet can significantly impact your sleep quality. A diet high in refined carbohydrates, like sugars and processed grains, can increase the risk of insomnia. And the later you eat, the more you risk poor sleep quality.
Let’s take a look at how to eat for better sleep, including which foods you should favor for a good night’s rest.
Select the Right Times to Eat
Contrary to popular belief, snack time should not be just any time. Each time you consume food, your body releases insulin, which helps convert food into energy. If you eat too close to bedtime, this release of hormones can induce wakefulness in the brain that disrupts your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural clock that helps you fall and stay asleep.
In addition to sleep health, the time you eat can also impact your overall health. When you consume food too close to bedtime, you don’t allow your body time for proper digestion. This can spell disaster for the quarter of the U.S. population that suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD causes gastric contents, including stomach acid, to splash back into the esophagus and cause painful heartburn and even a dry cough. Without ample digestion time before bed, those with GERD can experience severe sleep-depriving discomfort once laying down. Research recommends allowing roughly four hours for food to digest and move out of the stomach.
Avoid Certain Foods
Now that you know when to eat let’s review the foods to avoid for better sleep. Items high in caffeine, like coffee, tea, and chocolate negatively impact both falling asleep and overall sleep quality. Any stimulating food or beverage with caffeine should be avoided before bed and consumed modestly throughout the day to prevent sleep troubles.
Since insulin plays a significant role in the body’s energy production, it can also induce wakefulness in the brain. So, avoid all high-sugar foods, including candy, ice cream, and soda. These items spike your blood sugar and evoke a strong insulin response that can disrupt sleep. Likewise, those prone to indigestion caused by GERD should also avoid spicy or high-acid foods like peppers and citrus that can cause a symptom flare-up.
Choose Foods That Promote Sleep
With a better understanding of which foods to avoid, you can begin to make healthy substitutions for better sleep. Opt for complex carbohydrate-rich foods, like whole-wheat bread, pasta, and rice. Research has shown that carbohydrate-rich foods like these can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.
You may also want to consider adding dinner ingredients that are high in Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in producing serotonin and melatonin in the brain, which aids in healthy and restful sleep. There is a wide variety of easily accessible foods high in Vitamin B6, including tuna, salmon, poultry, and various fruits and vegetables.
Change Your Diet, Change Your Sleep
Poor sleep health is not only frustrating, it’s debilitating. Fortunately, by switching up the time you eat and the foods you consume, you can significantly improve the quality of your sleep.