8 nutrition tips to (finally) get a decent sleep
Can’t sleep? With everything that’s going on in the world, we’ve all got a little more worry and uncertainty racing through our minds when we lay our heads on the pillow. But getting a good night’s sleep is a vital element in maintaining a strong immune system.
And that’s not the only reason to prioritize sleep. A lack of good quality sleep can lead to weight gain, higher stress levels (which in turn lowers your immunity), depression and even memory loss.
And it’s bad news for your fitness goals: sleep deprivation can mean a lack of energy, fatigue, less time for your body to recover, repair and build muscle, delayed reaction time and poor focus.
Along with staying active throughout the day and using meditations and visualizations to calm your mind, the food you eat can play a big role in setting the natural rhythm of your body.
Advanced Sports Dietitian Lisa Middleton has 8 evidence-based nutrition tips to help you sleep better.
1. Avoid being over-full or too hungry when you go to bed. As a general rule, leave 2-3 hours after dinner before going to bed. And if it’s been more like 4-5 hours since dinner, have a small snack before you hit the hay.
2. Steer clear of caffeine (such as coffee, cola drinks and, sorry, chocolate) later in the day and evening. Caffeine blocks the chemicals that tell your brain it’s time to go night-night.
3. Don’t drink too much fluid just before bed – it can lead to trips to the toilet and disrupted sleep.
4. End the day with a nutrient-dense, high protein, low-GI carbohydrate-containing dinner, or small snack if you’re going to bed later. Your dinner might include a balance of protein such as chicken, fish or tofu, and carbohydrates such as quinoa or sweet potato. A small snack before bed could be fruit or a high-protein yogurt with nuts or seeds.
Our Lemon & Garlic Fish with Broccolini Quinoa will have you drifting off on a cloud of proteiny goodness.
5. Include foods rich in tryptophan in your dinner, such as turkey, pumpkin seeds, shrimp (prawns) and dairy. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body converts into serotonin (which helps to calm you) and melatonin (which regulates your sleep-wake cycle). Combining a carbohydrate with your turkey or dairy source can enhance the effect of tryptophan.
6. Eat two kiwi fruit before bed. Really! Kiwi fruit is a source of happy-making serotonin, which in turn can lead to increased melatonin production to help you drift off. It’s also rich in antioxidants which lower inflammation – and less inflammation means more sleep. Tart cherries can also increase melatonin and reduce inflammation.
7. Consume fish regularly. Not only does fish have anti-inflammatory properties, research suggests regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can improve the quality of your sleep and help you fall asleep faster. It is also believed that one of the fatty acids in fish, DHA, may play a role in helping your body synthesize melatonin.
8. Don’t drink and sleep. You may hit the pillow like a rock after drinking alcohol, but it can affect the quality of sleep in several ways – including intensifying sleep apnea and causing reflux or heartburn.
So keep up your regular exercise and a good sleep routine (like no devices in bed and keeping your bedroom cool), and try incorporating these nutrition tips into your daily routine to maximize your rest.
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