If you’ve been having trouble falling asleep or sleeping deeply through the night, there are a lot of different possible causes. You could have lingering chronic pain keeping you awake, perhaps your bedding is too hot or too breezy, or there are too many lights on in your bedroom. However, if you’ve tried your best to eliminate all the environmental causes, the problem might not be the room itself but what’s lurking in your stomach instead. What we eat makes a huge difference on how we sleep, and not just for the reasons you might think.
There are actually three possible dietary causes of interrupted or uncomfortable sleep. The first is digestion of stimulants like coffee, sugar, or chocolate. Of course, even if you’re careful about your stimulant intake before bedtime, you could still be kept awake by indigestion or too much food left to be digested when you go to sleep. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about how eating relates to sleep is that when you go into a deep REM cycle, your body shuts down digestion almost completely meaning that whatever you ate before bed could potentially sit there in your stomach for hours while you sleep, so you’ll want to be careful what you leave in there.
Which Meals are Most Important for Sleep?
Sleep affects how you eat during the day, which in turn affects how you sleep. The better you eat during the day, the more likely your body will be to feel healthy, comfortable, and ready for sleep when bedtime rolls around. A good breakfast will help you start up during the day and have a few less cups of coffee during the day and a healthy, filling lunch can prevent the most common eating and sleep mistake. Many people tend to put off eating at work until supper, at which point they eat more than their bodies can digest before sleep.
Eating steadily throughout the day is great for your sleep but by far the most important meal is dinner and, possibly, a bedtime snack.
Dinner Ideas for Deep Sleep
Unlike most ‘diet trends’, eating to get good sleep does not have a specific list of recipes you can use or even very hard rules on what you need. To sleep well after supper, simply follow a set of guidelines for foods that tend to settle comfortably and make you sleepy. Most people know, for instance, that both milk and turkey contain a chemical known as tryptophan which will make you relaxed and sleepy but a turkey dinner isn’t your only way to drift off comfortably.
For building your own recipes, start with complex carbs like whole-wheat bread or multi-grain pasta. Carbs feel warm and full in your belly and digest cleanly so as not to cause any discomfort while you sleep. For an extra sleep bonus, eat most of your daily carbs in the evening.
For proteins, look into fish, turkey, or ham as they all contain sleep-aiding components. Potassium, which relaxes the muscles, is also a fantastic addition to your sleep-aid dinner making both bananas and sweet potatoes a tasty side, treat, or dessert option. Make sure to finish your supper at least three hours before you plan to sleep so that most of the digestion is done.
Sleep-Healthy Bedtime Snacks
Many of us feel a little peckish right before bed and want something to eat right before bed. This is perfectly normal but what you choose matters a great deal. As you might have guessed, a scoop of ice cream, slice of cake, or cup of coffee are not ideal options. Instead, consider a bowl of crunchy cereal with milk, a fruit salad, a banana smoothie, or a peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread. If you want something hot to drink, consider a relaxing mug of chamomile tea, hot cocoa, or warm milk.
Sleep is something everyone takes for granted right up until the moment it stops being easy. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping no matter how or where you sleep, consider getting your stomach on the right side of the equation. By eating healthy, strategically sleep-enhancing meals and bedtime snacks, you can significantly increase your chances of drifting off comfortably. We do recommend that you consult a physician or dietary professional before making any major changes to your diet that may conflict with medical conditions or ailments.
One thing you can do right away is evaluate what you’re sleeping on. If it’s time for a new mattress, consider going green and non-toxic with one of our My Green Mattress beds!