When it comes to getting better sleep, most people focus on their habits before bed or how to best change their sleep environment. However, your diet can also play a role in the quality of your rest, and there are a number of ways you can change your diet for better sleep. You may not think what you eat has much to do with your slumber, but certain foods contain ingredients that can help encourage a better night's rest, while on the flip side, other foods can keep you up at night, tossing and turning.
"For people who struggle to sleep through the night, diet can play an important role," says Caitlin Lantier MS, RD, LD over email. "Sound sleep has much to do with hormonal shifts that are signaled by the environment. Throughout the day, your body is working hard and producing hormones based on environmental factors. For example, when it starts to get dark, your body starts to produce more hormones that indicate it is time to get some rest — also known as a circadian rhythm. Eating a regular, balanced diet can help your body stay consistent with hormone production."
If you find that you have trouble falling asleep at night — or even staying asleep — consider making these eleven surprising changes to your diet that can help you get better sleep.
1Eat Often Throughout The Day
Try to eat consistently throughout the day, and avoid skipping meals. "Just like it is important to have a consistent bedtime routine, consistent meal times are important for people who struggle to sleep well," says Lantier. "Your body receives mixed signals that affect your hormones, which in turn affects sleep patterns."
2Skip The Spicy Food Before Bed
You might like to enjoy your popcorn with Sriracha while you unwind and watch Netflix, but spicy food can be hard on your digestive system, especially before bed. "Stay away from spicy foods in the evening if you have a hard time sleeping. as these can cause GI distress and can keep you up at night," says Lantier.
3Eat More Carbohydrates
People get scared off by the sound of carbs, but research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that difficulty staying asleep at night is associated with a diet low in carbohydrates. "Carbs allow your body to make serotonin and tryptophan more available to the brain," says Tara Coleman, CN over email. "A moderate of carbs at dinner will help you ease into a restful sleep. Stick to healthy carbs like whole grains and vegetables to avoid drastic spikes and drops in blood sugar.
4Stop Eating 1 Hour Before Bed
"The digestive process is one of the most labor intensive process in the body, so if you are still digesting it can cause your sleep to be restless and interrupted," says Coleman. "Most people take about 45 minutes to digest , so shoot to stop eating 1 hour before you crawl into bed."
5Add In Some Magnesium-Rich Foods
"Magnesium is a relaxer, and a deficiency can keep you feeling wound up at night," says Coleman. "Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, fish, yogurt, nuts and dark chocolate."
6Try Valerian Root
Ditch the Tylenol PM and opt for some all-natural valerian root instead. "It has been used since the times of ancient Greece and Rome as a sleep aid and to ease anxiety," says Coleman. "I have also found in my practice that valerian root is not only effective with helping you fall asleep, but also with helping you stay asleep. It is found in some sleepy teas or in tincture form."
7Add In Some Dairy
If you need a midnight snack, consider reaching for a smal piece of cheese, a glass of warm milk, or a little bit of yogurt. "The calcium may help convert tryptophan to melatonin," says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, LDN over email.
8Avoid High-Fat Meals Before Bed
If you enjoy getting late-night pizza with your friends, your dinner might be to blame for your poor sleep quality. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that eating a high-fat meal too close to bedtime can have a negative effect on sleep quality. Stick to lighter meals in the evening, and eat your share of fats earlier on in the day.
9Balance Out Your Plate
The more nutrients you get, the better you'll sleep, which makes it important to eat balanced meals and snacks. "Include fat, complex carbohydrates, and protein at each meal," says Lantier. "This helps regulate blood glucose and hormone levels so that your body has an easier time falling asleep at night." Research from the University of Pennsylvania found that people who are "normal sleepers" consume the widest variety of foods.
10Drink Plenty Of Water Throughout The Day
We all know that hydrating is important for our energy levels, but water can also play a role in how well we sleep. The same research from the University of Pennsylvania found that in addition to consuming the widest variety of foods, normal sleepers also drink the most water throughout the day.
11Cut Down On The Fluids Before Bed
It's important to stay hydrated throughout the day, but try to cut down on fluids as it gets closer to bedtime. Drinking too much close to bedtime can ruin your sleep, according to Cleveland Clinic, so cut back on fluids around two hours before you're going to hit the hay.