Sleep hygiene has been all over the media lately. This does not mean washing your sheets and taking off dirty socks before getting into bed (as you have probably realized if you are at all familiar with the concept.)
If you’re not, sleep hygiene refers to all the habits and practices that contribute to good sleep, such as minimizing screen time before bed, making the bedroom a tranquil space and avoiding stimulants late in the day. Pretty straightforward.
What is less commonly discussed – but should be – is sleep diet. In other words, the concept of eating for optimal sleep. Your diet affects all areas of your life, from weight to energy to physical health, so why would one assume it doesn’t affect restfulness?
Nutrition plays a massive role in how well you get to sleep and stay asleep, and we’re not just talking pre-bed snacks. What you eat throughout the day and even your choice of breakfast can impact your slumber.
It goes without saying that each person’s individual nutritional needs will vary. (For instance, I can have caffeine before bed no problem while others can’t tolerate it. Meanwhile, I need protein and fats in the morning to get me through the day while others do just fine skipping breakfast.)
That being said, this meal plan is generally pretty sound as a way to prepare you for bed and improve your sleep. Consider adopting some of these meals to facilitate a better night’s rest.
Breakfast – Peanut Butter Toast with Sliced Figs
Peanut butter contains melatonin, which helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. Because it is a slow-digesting food (thanks to its fat and protein content), it’s best saved for breakfast rather than before bed. Figs contain magnesium, which has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration. As for the toast, make sure it’s whole grain, as this will ensure a steady insulin boost which will, in turn, boost serotonin–a hormone that contributes to good sleep.
Drink – Coffee with Calcium-Fortified Non-Dairy Milk
Save coffee for the morning or, at the latest, early afternoon (ideally before 2 pm). Pair it with some calcium-fortified milk, as calcium helps the body process tryptophan, which in turn helps build melatonin and other sleep-producing hormones.
Lunch – Sweet Potato on a bed of Greens, topped with Hummus and Pumpkin Seeds
The complex carbohydrates in sweet potatoes will help your body prepare for rest later in the day without the risk of sedating you the way simple carbs might. They are a rich source of potassium, i.e. a natural muscle relaxer that can help you rest better. Greens are also high in potassium, as well as calcium and magnesium. Hummus is ideal for restfulness for two reasons: 1. Chickpeas, which are full of B vitamins that boost serotonin production, and 2. Sesame seeds, which are very rich in tryptophan (as are pumpkin seeds).
Dinner – Tofu, Bok Choy, Mushroom and Brown Rice Stir Fry
When it comes to eating for sleep, soy is a heavy-hitter. It contains isoflavones which mimic certain natural hormones that are linked to better, longer, more tranquil sleep. Chuck some bok choy into the mix for another dose of greens, and mushrooms for both tryptophan and melatonin. As previously noted, whole grains are ideal for improving sleep. Rice is an especially good option due to its moderate glycemic index, which quickens sleep onset.
Dessert – Cherry Cobbler with Slivered Almonds and Coconut Cream and Chamomile Tea
You may have heard that tart cherry juice is good for sleep, but regular cherries are just as good as a natural source of melatonin. Despite being a whole grain, oats spike insulin rapidly, which in turn makes you relaxed and sleepy. (So perhaps you’re better off having oats for dinner than for breakfast!) Almonds facilitate healthy sleep thanks to melatonin and magnesium, while coconut regulates hormones including the ones that balance energy levels throughout the day and help you wind down in the evening.
On top of all this, I should add that drinking lots of water is one surefire way to improve your quality of sleep. Water-rich foods also help here.
Once you have absorbed all the information above, see which of these dishes or ingredients you can include in your daily diet. If chemistry works as it should, you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.
What other foods have you found help contribute to good sleep? Let me know in the comments!
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