For those of us who want to achieve better sleep, night after night (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), it’s comforting to know that there’s actually quite a bit we can control that impacts our sleep quality. Optimizing the environment we sleep in and the bedtime routine we keep have been proven to substantially decrease sleep latency and increase sleep duration. But what about nutrition habits and how they impact the quality of sleep? We were curious to hear what our experts would suggest, so we turned to two of our leading nutrition authorities, Melanie Boehmer and Kassandra Aveni Hobart, to share with us their top tips for improving sleep quality.
Melanie Boehmer, RD, CDN, CISSN
- Breakfast like a king and supper like a pauper. Last “meal” at least 3 hours before bed. It’s common for people to eat their largest meal in the evening, but large meals and snacks eaten in the evening can impair sleep quality. Avoid eating a large meal that’s heavy in fats and proteins or overly spicy. These foods are harder to digest, and although large meals might make you sleepy immediately, slow or difficult digestion means disturbed and lower-quality sleep. This is especially important if you experience heartburn or reflux.
- Cut back on sugar, particularly added sugars. Frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been associated with poor sleep quality, particularly less SWS (slow wave sleep) and higher rates of sleep disruption.
- Stay well-hydrated all day long, which will help keep fluid levels up throughout the night, too.
- Prioritize Vitamin D. It’s necessary for absorbing minerals, protecting bones, and may even play a role in circadian rhythms. Direct sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, but it is also found in fatty fish, fortified dairy and grains, mushrooms, tofu and eggs.
- Limit caffeine consumption to 6 hours before bed. For most people, drinking highly caffeinated drinks in the late afternoon or evening will impair sleep. Yes, there are those who fall right asleep after a cup of coffee, but everyone is different, so it’s good to learn how your body reacts to caffeine by testing it out.
- Eat more fiber. Fiber-rich carbs like whole grains are broken down slowly causing a gradual rise in blood sugar. Think barley, buckwheat, farro and oats or non-starchy veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and spinach. You want at least 25 grams spread out during the day.
- Cut down on alcohol. Fiber-rich carbs like whole grains Alcohol is linked with a decrease in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycles, as well as delayed sleep onset. Alcohol acts as a stimulant several hours after drinking it, and even if you don’t wake up, you are not getting the full restorative benefits of a good night’s sleep. Stick to a drink or two at most.
Kassandra Aveni Hobart, NTP, M2 Performance Nutrition Coach
- Tart Cherry Juice. Tart cherries contain two compounds (tryptophan and anthocyanin) that help the body naturally create a hormone called melatonin. The juice has anti-inflammatory properties that help calm your system and promote serotonin levels too. You could start by taking 8 ounces a night roughly 1 hour before bedtime.
- Turmeric + Collagen latte. Turmeric is another anti-inflammatory compound that can ease your system at night. When we mix it with collagen peptides in a frothy drink, it becomes easy to digest and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Dysregulation of blood sugar can be another reason for sleep abnormalities.
- Oatmeal Pack. Oatmeal is high in fiber which will impact your digestion slowly rather than a rapid spike in blood sugar. It also has a high amount of magnesium, calcium and potassium which promote serotonin and help you feel relaxed before bed.
- Stay off blue-light devices 1 full hour before bed. The amount of time you are on these devices matters too. Use f.lux on your devices and blue-light blocking shades to set yourself up for success.
- Take a cold shower or run cold water over hands and face for 60 seconds. This drops your core body temp a little and improve HRV (heart rate variability) which can help you fall asleep sooner and stay asleep longer.
- Keep NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) high during the day. Walking anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 steps will improve your daily NEAT expenditure and can help your ability to sleep at night.
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