Many of us are not getting enough sleep. In fact, according to Singlecare, the average adult gets fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night and 62% of adults globally don’t sleep as well as they would like. So if you are struggling to get enough shut-eye, you are far from alone.
You may have heard many tips for getting a better night’s sleep. Meditating, listening to relaxing music, drinking caffeine-free herbal teas, and switching off devices with screens at least an hour before bed are all great strategies that can help. But did you know that your diet can also impact how well and for how long you sleep?
Here are 7 simple dietary changes you can make to help you start sleeping better tonight.
Avoid or cut down on alcohol
Do you feel as though a drink before bed helps you to sleep? While alcohol might initially help you to fall asleep, it can actually make your quality of sleep worse. This is because too much alcohol can cause you to wake up during the most important, restorative phases of your sleep cycle. That’s why you often feel even more tired after a night of drinking.
Try not drinking before bed for a few weeks and see if it helps with your sleep. If you can’t imagine giving up alcohol completely, cut back on the amount and frequency of your drinking.
Eat more fatty fish
Some studies have shown that eating fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, and anchovies, can have a positive effect on sleep. This may be because they contain Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which play a role in the regulation of the chemical serotonin. Ideally, you should aim to eat fatty fish around three times per week.
Add tart cherries to your diet
Tart cherries or sour cherries are available both whole and juiced, and have been shown to have some positive benefits for sleep. One study showed that people who drink tart cherry juice every day tended to sleep longer and sleep better than those who didn’t.
Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin. This hormone helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and is the reason you feel sleepy at night. Try drinking a small glass of tart cherry juice before you go to bed every night for a few weeks.
Don’t eat spicy food at night
Spicy food is delicious. Unfortunately, it can also have a negative impact on sleep for many people. Spicy foods can cause heartburn and acid reflux, as well as worsening conditions like sleep apnea.
If spicy foods give you heartburn or you notice that you struggle to sleep after eating them, try cutting them out of your diet for a while or eating them earlier in the day. At a minimum, do not consume anything spicy within three hours of bedtime.
Eat complex carbs in the evening
It’s important to eat a diet rich in all three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. But eating high-protein or high-fat foods in the evening can disrupt your sleep. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid these foods a few hours before bed.
If you are hungry in the evening, eating complex carbohydrates will fill you up without ruining your sleep. A bowl of oatmeal or some wholewheat toast are great choices.
Eat more nuts
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses. Many people avoid them because of their high calorie content, but they are full of healthy fats and many of the nutrients our bodies need. They can also aid in getting more and better sleep.
Several types of nuts, including almonds, are sources of the sleep hormone melatonin. Almonds also provide magnesium, which may be connected to better sleep through its inflammation-reducing and cortisol-reducing effects.
Walnuts are another great type of nut to eat for improved sleep. Walnuts also contain melatonin, as well as providing vital fatty acids which may stimulate serotonin production in the body.
Have a milky drink before bed
Milk contains melatonin as well as tryptophan, an amino acid that plays a role in promoting healthy sleep. Some evidence suggests that having a warm, milky drink before you go to bed can help you to sleep better.
Try drinking warm milk with a teaspoon of honey or malted milk. Malted milk is made with a powder that contains ingredients such as malted wheat, malted barley, sugar, and added vitamins. When you combine this with warm milk, you get a tasty and comforting drink that can help you to drift off to sleep.
Bonus tip: keep a food diary
Everyone’s body is different and you might have your own food triggers when it comes to poor sleep. Keep a food diary for a few weeks, noting what you ate and drank and how well you slept. You might be surprised how much you can learn.