5 Nutrition Tips to Improve Your Sleep
It’s no secret that stress can keep you up at night — and lately, you may feel like de-stressing just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But your eating habits also affect your sleep quality, and that’s something you can control. A few simple tweaks to your diet may help you sleep a bit more soundly, so if you’ve been tossing and turning lately, try these 5 nutrition tips for a better night’s sleep.
1. Cut Out Caffeine in the Evening
One small study found that people who took 400 mg of caffeine — a little less than the amount found in a standard 16- to 20-ounce cup of brewed coffee — six hours before bedtime lost more than one hour of sleep.
Chances are, you’re not drinking a 16-ounce coffee before bedtime — but don’t forget that many soft drinks and teas also contain caffeine, says Melissa Perry, a registered dietitian at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center in Orlando, FL.
If you’re looking for something to sip before bed that won’t keep you up all night, choose caffeine-free herbal tea, like chamomile or ginger. Both can be part of a relaxing nighttime routine, Perry says.
2. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol has a sedative effect, which may make you feel drowsy and fall asleep more easily. But if you consume too much, your sleep quality may suffer — you may wake up in the middle of the night and nab less restorative sleep, leaving you feeling groggy and unrested the following day, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Limit your consumption, and aim to stop drinking a few hours before bedtime.
3. Eat More Fiber (and Less Saturated Fat and Sugar)
In a small study of healthy adults, researchers found that a diet higher in saturated fat and sugar was linked to more restless sleep. A higher fiber intake, on the other hand, was associated with more time spent in slow-wave sleep (a.k.a. deep, restorative sleep).
And, of course, fiber has plenty of other healthy benefits, so aim for at least 28 grams a day. “Oatmeal with fresh berries for breakfast, or a side of broccoli or Brussels sprouts at dinner, are great high-fiber options to add to your diet,” Perry says.
4. Avoid Foods that Upset Your Stomach
If you have issues with acid reflux, you may experience nighttime heartburn, which can cause sleep disturbances. So if you’ve been having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, consider cutting out any foods that typically cause tummy troubles, such as greasy potato chips, spicy peppers, or alcohol.
5. Choose a Healthy Bedtime Snack
Ideally, you should stop eating a few hours before bedtime. But if you can’t shake a late-night craving, reach for something healthy. Almonds are a great option, says Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for the New York Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — they contain melatonin, which helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
A few foods — including tart cherries, milk, fatty fish, and kiwifruit — have also been researched for potential sleep-promoting benefits, but more studies are necessary to determine whether they can really help you get better zzz’s.