Eat Right, Sleep Tight
Climbing into bed at night and settling into a deep, restful slumber should be one of the easiest and most natural things to do. But our busy lives often take a toll on our ability to unwind. We work too much and rest too little, and many of us don't take time to eat as well as we should. And, these bad food habits can affect the quality of our sleep.
Often times, busy people don't eat enough during the day, and then have a large, protein-heavy meal at night which is really the opposite of what they should be doing.
Protein foods stimulate the production of chemicals in your brain that help keep you alert which is great when you've got a busy morning ahead, but probably not what you want when you're trying to shut down for the day. And, large meals eaten just before bed can lead to indigestion and heartburn, a perfect recipe for an uncomfortable night's sleep.
On the other hand, low fat, high carbohydrate meals are digested more quickly, and stimulate the production of different brain chemicals; ones that help you relax and ease you into sleep. So it's best to opt for more protein at breakfast and lunch to keep you alert and clear-headed all day, and save the starchier carbs. for dinner.
Caffeine and alcohol can also be sleep-busters. For most people, caffeine is a stimulant, so a cup of java before you hit the sack is probably unwise. Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt normal sleep patterns, too. You might be able to fall asleep, but not for long, which makes it hard to reach the deepest and most restful stage of sleep. And if that weren't enough, chances are you'll also be awakened by a full bladder, since both caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics.
Whether to snack or not before you go to bed depends on your usual patterns. If your evening meal is small and light (and early), then a light snack is fine if you feel it helps you sleep and you can afford the calories.
Try these tips for a better night's sleep:
- Keep dinner on the light side, with a focus on foods like salad, veggies, fruits, whole grains and beans
- If you know that caffeine keeps you awake, avoid caffeine-containing beverages for 6-8 hours before going to bed
- Keep your alcohol intake moderate to avoid having your sleep disrupted
- Drink most of your fluids during the day, and cut back after dinner. If you need to take medications at bedtime, then use as little liquid as you can.
- Finally, if you like to have a bedtime snack, include foods that are high in calcium, which helps muscles to relax. A cup of warm milk is an age-old remedy for sleeplessness, and for good reason.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.