Fix Your Diet, Fix Your Sleep
You snooze, you win! Turns out eating sleep smart will deliver enough zzz’s to boost your immune system and shrink your stress. “Sleep is one of the first things I ask patients about,” explains Dr. Donielle Wilson, N.D. naturopathic doctor, certified nutrition specialist and author of the upcoming, A Natural Guide to Better Sleep, “because it tells me about their health and how well they’re holding up under stress.”
But a good night’s sleep — generally defined as 7.5 to 9 hours of uninterrupted slumber per night — can be elusive. Sure, caffeine and alcohol are known sleep disrupters, but your daily eating habits could also be sabotaging your shut-eye. Besides perfecting a bedtime routine (see below), here are Wilson’s top 5 ways to fix sleep issues by giving your diet an upgrade:
- Balance your blood sugar level during the day, which affects your blood sugar balance while you sleep. If you eat large meals, infrequent meals and/or high sugar/carb meals (including bananas), especially near bedtime, you’re likely to wake up from blood sugar fluctuations.
- Reduce inflammation in your body, which for many people means avoiding gluten and dairy. Inflammation can travel to the nervous system and cause symptoms from anxiety to insomnia.
- Boost nutrient-dense foods high in sleep-friendly vitamins and minerals, including magnesium (nuts, seeds, fish, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate), B6 (salmon, beef, chicken, turkey, sweet potato, hazelnuts) and melatonin (cherries, pomegranate, cranberries, pineapple, oranges, tomatoes).
- Ditch your sugar-filled, late-night treat for a non-dairy protein powder–fueled smoothie to break those sweet cravings.
- Calm your nervous system with herbal teas like chamomile and lavender. Stress triggers a stress response involving stimulating cortisol and adrenaline, which leads to disrupted sleep patterns.
- Set a reminder for your bedtime on your phone. You’re less likely to get distracted and more likely to get in bed on schedule.
- Turn on blue-light blocking apps in the evening for optimal melatonin production.
- Reduce noise and your activity level a couple hours before bedtime.
- Set up your bedroom environment, which ideally is uncluttered, completely dark and at an ideal temperature of around 65º.
- Reduce or eliminate electro-magnetic influences on sleep by placing electronic devices (like your phone) away from your bed and even in another room.
- Spray lavender or other calming essential oils on your pillow.