Scientific evidence supports that nutrient rich foods can provide us with the nutrients we need for our general health and well being.
Nutrients work best synergistically from natural food sources, rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. This is good to know because your diet has a lot to do with the quality of the sleep you will get!
There are many things you can add to your afternoon and evening routine, that will help you to fall asleep more easily and promote a more restful sleep.
Here are some tips:
1. Evening meals should be geared towards relaxation and good digestion. Foods high in tryptophan will help promote better sleep. Tryptophan serves as a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body to regulate appetite, sleep patterns, and mood.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, one that our bodies cannot manufacture and which we must get from our diet. Excellent sources of Tryptophan or protein-rich foods are: cage-free eggs, Crimini mushrooms, tuna, hormone-free chicken, turkey, tofu, lamb, grass-fed beef, spirulina, sardines, shrimp, wild-caught fish like cod and salmon, and raw dairy products. These foods for dinner make an excellent foundation of your main meal choices.
Vegetables that are very good tryptophan sources are: spinach, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, Swiss chard, and kale. Create your dinner around these Tryptophan rich food sources and see how this changes your sleep quality.
2. Avoid caffeine in the four to six hours before bedtime. Caffeine drinkers may find it difficult to fall asleep. Once they drift off, their sleep is shorter and lighter. For some people, a single cup of coffee in the morning means a sleepless night. That may be because caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter thought to promote sleep.
People who suffer from insomnia should avoid caffeine as much as possible, since its effects can endure for many hours. Because caffeine withdrawal can cause headache, irritability, and extreme fatigue, some people find it easier to cut back gradually than to go cold turkey. Those who can’t or don’t want to give up caffeine should avoid it after 2 p.m., or noon if they are especially caffeine-sensitive.
3. Avoid alcohol in the four to six hours before bedtime. Also, alcohol depresses the nervous system, so a nightcap can help some people fall asleep. However, the quality of this sleep is abnormal. Alcohol suppresses REM sleep. Drinkers have frequent awakenings and sometimes frightening dreams. Alcohol may be responsible for up to 10% of chronic insomnia cases. Also, because alcohol relaxes throat muscles and interferes with brain control mechanisms, it can worsen snoring and other breathing problems.
4. Do not eat large meals within two hours of your bedtime. Your emphasis should be on low glycemic index carbohydrates, such as: whole grains, a mixed green salad or lightly sautéed vegetables rather than high-glycemic index, blood-sugar-elevating carbohydrates.
Try to avoid food choices with a high glycemic index such as white potatoes, corn, oats, rice, bananas, orange juice, pineapple, figs, raisins, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
Food choices with a low glycemic index are: lentils, garbanzo beans, split peas, almond or coconut milk, black beans, and most vegetables such as: spinach, lettuce, zucchini, asparagus, celery, cucumber, radishes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, cauliflower, bell peppers, green peas, and squash.
5. Include a small portion of a healthy fat containing food such as: olive oil, avocado, nuts, or seeds.
6. Include herbal teas that are non-stimulating, like chamomile or peppermint.
7. Avoid sugar – refined sugar! If a dessert is desired, eat a moderate amount of fruit. Fresh fruit lightly steamed with cinnamon on top makes a great dessert!
8. Avoid brain stimulants like: bacon, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, ham, potatoes, sauerkraut, sugar, sausage, tomatoes, and wine close to bedtime. These foods contain tyramine, which increases the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant.
9. Exercise in the late afternoon to make your body tired.
10. Take a hot bath an hour or two before bedtime. Add a couple drops of essential oils such as Lavender or take an essential oil-infused epsom salts bath. Diffuse essential oils like Vetiver, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Sandalwood, or Marjoram.
Try these tips and see how your sleep improves.
Improving Sleep: A Guide to a Good Night’s Rest, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.