How Food & Drink Directly Affects Our Sleep
You are what you eat! We’ve all heard it and we all know, whether we like it or not, that it rings true. It can be a struggle eating healthily, whilst thinking how it can affect your sleep, and let’s not forget the days when all you need is a big slice of pizza (we feel your pain…delivery to the office please!). As a society caught up in appearances, constantly worrying about how we look and how others perceive us, it’s easy to believe that diet only affects this. But our diet also heavily affects how we sleep.
Despite how hard it may be to stick to a diet plan, our diet really does play a vital part in how we sleep. From what we eat to when we eat it, there are so many food and drink factors that can affect our sleeping patterns.
So let’s get into it, what should we eat and drink before bed to ensure we get a great night’s sleep?
What nutrients are best to aid sleep?
We’ve taken a look into this further and found three nutrients that have been proven to help you achieve that well deserved slumber that you need.
If during the day you find you feel tired and worn out, then it has been proven that this may be caused by a vitamin D deficiency. Of course, living in England, finding the sun is a constant hardship (why can’t we relocate to Bora Bora please Charlie?), but the rays are the best way to source this vitamin.
In those colder months when we are soon expecting snow, it may be time to get that winter tog duvet ordered. We have as little chance of winning the Euromillions then getting a nice day soaking up vitamin D in the sun, so we tracked down some foods that you can eat to bring a small amount of vitamin D back into your lives (welcome back!).
For dinner tonight why not have…fish oil, mushrooms, cheese and egg yolks. Of course, if none of these are floating your boat you can always take a daily supplement.
We’ve all been there, you’ve been tired all day, counting down the minutes until you're back in bed, and suddenly you’re wide awake and full of life. Studies have found insomnia sufferers can suffer from a magnesium deficiency, and this plays a huge factor in regulating sleep.
To make sure you’re getting enough magnesium in your life, why not try adding dried fruit, dark chocolate, or avocados to your diet.
Tossing and turning at night can be frustrating, especially if you find you can’t sleep through until the morning. It was found in a study that a lack of potassium can be a factor in individuals staying asleep throughout the night. If you’re looking for a quick fix, why not start taking a potassium tablet with your daily multivitamin. Or if you’re looking for a natural way to bring this nutrient into your diet, start by adding bananas, yoghurt, potatoes or squash into your meal plan.
Best Foods to Help You Sleep Better
- Cherries – This fruit is one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin, a hormone which helps you sleep.
- Milk – Milk contains tryptophan which is an amino acid that can help relax your body.
- Turkey – Like milk, turkey contains ‘tryptophan’, a chemical that can help people reach a relaxed, sleepy state.
- Some Carbohydrates (cereal, rice, quinoa and fruit) are good to eat before bed as they contain slow releasing energy. This energy contains nutrients that help you sleep.
- Bananas – This fruit can help promote sleep because they contain the natural muscle-relaxants magnesium and potassium.
- Sweet Potato – they provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates, they also contain that muscle-relaxant potassium.
- Almonds – this Nut is bursting with tryptophan and magnesium.
Who knew, cooking specific meals and snacking on the right things before bed could send you off to sleep in no time. And if you’re struggling to be inspired, here’s a few recipe ideas to feed your sleep craving selves:
- Turkey and sweet potato chili with quinoa
- Roasted turkey breast and sweet potato risotto
- Cherry and banana fruit salad with grated almonds
- Homemade banana ice cream with almond flakes
If you do find it hard to sleep at night you may need to seriously consider what you’re eating before bedtime. But sometimes when wanting to be cautious about things, it’s easier to know exactly what you need to cut out.
Here is the food and drink that should be avoided before bedtime:
- Fizzy Drinks – they contain high levels of sugar which give the body unwanted energy, delaying your sleep.
- Coffee – it contains caffeine, which is a central nervous stimulant
- Sugary Foods – large amounts of Chocolate before bed not only contains calories but caffeine, especially dark chocolate.
- Alcohol – of any kind is detrimental to our sleep. Why? It metabolizes quickly in your system which can result in you waking up multiple times during the night.
Food with high levels of fat will keep you up at night as they contain chemicals that keep the body active. Fat takes a long time to digest which will keep the body awake.
Hard cheese contains high levels of the amino acid tyramine which can actually make the brain feel more alert.
Can certain foods affect our dreams?
Get your knives and forks at the ready as we look at how certain foods can dictate our dream state and why this happens. We’ve all heard that cheese can give us nightmares and that we shouldn’t eat too soon before going to bed. But are these factual, or just another bedtime story.
Let’s start off with dreaming as a whole. We generally have three to four dreams every night, although we don’t tend to remember all of them. Most of these dreams that we retain normally occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of our sleep, when our brains are most active. So chances are that certain foods don’t cause us to have more dreams, but they could be instigating certain scenarios in our dreams. For example, having a heavy meal or fatty foods before bed isn’t recommended as we should be allowing enough time for our food to digest and reduce our chances of indigestion, resulting in disrupted sleep and causing more dramatic dream scenarios. And the same can be said for the opposite; having an empty stomach. So essentially, you want to be going to bed feeling comfortable.
Now let’s look at specific foods. As previously mentioned, the one that seems to come to mind is cheese. But, did you know, a small square of cheese about 30 minutes before bed can actually result in more pleasant dreams. So crack out the Edam and Stilton! Other foods that will help promote good dreams are turkey and fish, both of which are high in vitamin B6 and tryptophan. Pair these with a meal high in carbohydrates and you will be snoozing easily. And why not wash this down with some milk. This is high in melatonin and helps to regulate our sleep pattern and help us to sleep longer.
What you should be avoiding before bed is sugar, and I’m afraid to say chocolate is one of the worst offenders. The high sugar content can make dropping off a more strenuous task. Compounds specifically found in chocolate have a psychoactive effect on our brain, enhancing our dream state, for good or bad, AND produce adrenaline that increases our blood pressure and heart rate. All in all, creating a bumpy ride through the land of nod.
Be sure to also avoid spicy foods if you don’t have a tolerance to it as these can create some pretty strange dreams due to the ton of energy that the body uses up digesting it.
So there you go. A few myths busted and some new facts were brought to light. Keep clear of those late night Lamb Balti’s and enjoy some fish and veggies if you’re peckish before bed. Just a small change to your diet can make a big change to your sleep.
What do you think? Have you trial and tested any of these wonder foods and sleep tips? Let us know in the comments below.