Tips on Eating for Better Sleep

updated Dec 17, 2019
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Sleep is a hot topic in health right now – and the general consensus is that we’re not getting enough. The latest findings from the National Sleep Foundation (yes, it exists) report that adults need approximately seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but according to the National Institutes of Health, a third of us are getting six hours or fewer.

The consequences are nothing to (ahem) snooze at: In addition to fatigue and brain fog, sleep deprivation has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, and stroke as well as anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). When we don’t get enough shut-eye, we’re also more likely to gain weight and have a higher BMI — and less likely to be interested in sex.

Now that we’ve got your attention … here are some pointers from Dr. Holly Phillips, a Manhattan-based internist, medical contributor for CBS News, and author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough: Unmask the Hidden Reasons You’re Tired and Beat Fatigue for Good, on how to get your beauty sleep.

1. Steer clear of heavy meals in the evening.

Having a large, spicy, rich, or fatty meal too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep and cause indigestion that disturbs the natural rhythms and the deepest stages of sleep.

2. Rethink your evening snack.

It’s best to finish dinner a few hours before bedtime, but if you get hungry later in the evening, have a light snack with sleep-inducing foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid the brain uses to make calming serotonin). Good choices include whole-grain crackers and cheese, cereal and a glass of milk, or a handful of almonds and a banana. Having a cup of caffeine-free chamomile tea can also put you in the mood to snooze.

3. Alcohol is a double-edged sword.

While having a glass of wine or a cocktail can certainly make you sleepy, after a few hours of sleep, alcohol acts as a stimulant, leaving you susceptible to micro (or full) arousals or awakenings and poorer-quality sleep as the night goes on. Try to limit alcohol to one drink per day, and avoid it close to bedtime so it’s fully metabolized by the time you turn in.

4. Eat well all day, not just at night.

It’s easy to forget that what we eat and drink throughout the day (and when we do it), has a huge effect on the quality of sleep we will get at night. Some foods and beverages are sleep inhibitors, while others are sleep promoters, and the process and timing of digestion itself affects whether or not we’ll sleep soundly.

Skipping meals, eating junk food, or loading up on simple carbs, sugary foods, or processed foods can take a toll on your energy by sending your blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride and depriving your body of a steady flow of nutrients. This takes a toll on your energy levels during the day, and your ability to calm down for sleep at night.

(Image credit: Rodale Books)

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