Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to, well… just about everything. Restful sleep can reduce stress, increase focus, boost athletic ability, build immunity, and ward off inflammation. It’s essential for restoring your mind and body, so you can perform at your very best.
The Sleep Foundation recommends getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but with so many emails to respond to, chores to complete, and shows to binge on Netflix, it can be tough drifting off when you need to.
In fact, a study of approximately 165,000 people found that Americans are now sleeping worse than ever before. “Sleep health is a multidimensional phenomenon,” writes Zlatan Krizan, the study’s co-author. “So examining all the aspects of sleep is crucial for future research.”
One sleep aspect you can easily fine tune from your own home is the way you eat. By optimizing what and when you eat before bed, you can reduce time spent tossing and turning.
Looking to develop a sleep-friendly eating routine? Here’s what the experts recommend:
1. Eat something within two hours of sleep.
While you want to avoid going to bed on an overly full stomach, your sleep may be disrupted by hunger or low blood sugar if you’re running on empty.
If you eat dinner early, opt for a small snack between 200-300 calories that includes mostly lean protein and vegetables with a side of starch or fat.
Healthy carbs can help boost tryptophan and serotonin, both of which aid in sleep. The protein, fiber and fat stabilize blood sugar in response to the carbs, ensuring low blood sugar doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
Audrey Sourroubille Arnold, Health & Nutrition Coach, LotusPowerHealth.com
2. Eat enough.
Surprisingly enough, most of us have a tendency to undereat, which can dramatically affect your sleep.
The largest problem I've noticed with my clients is that they come to me eating 1300 calories and doing cardio every day. When you are expending more energy than you are taking in, you create a calorie deficit and put your body into overdrive mode. This can cause weight gain and affect your ability to get quality sleep.
If you don't properly nourish yourself, your body goes into fight or flight mode. This kind of stress can cause sleep disruptions, which will further impact your energy, clarity, and overall health.
Kayla King, CEO, MacroMenu
3. Grab a turkey wrap a few hours before bed.
This meal might seem oddly specific, but it just happens to offer the perfect blend of ingredients for inducing deeper, more satisfying sleep.
Turkey is high in tryptophan, which is known to promote sleepiness. When combined with a whole-grain tortilla or flatbread, it offers just the right amount of complex carbs to promote sleep-inducing serotonin.
Opt for low-sodium turkey, include a bit of cheese (as a blood sugar-stabilizing fat), and toss in some veggies, such lettuce, sliced tomatoes, or zucchini for added fiber. You can always top it off with a nice light sauce for flavor (think: olive oil and vinegar).
Chris Moberg, Editor and Research, Slumber Search
4. Treat yourself to a bedtime smoothie after dinner.
Blend together almonds, chia seeds, dark leafy greens, and a banana. This nutty and sweet drink is also perfect to replace your dessert habit.
In combination, these foods are high in magnesium, calcium, tryptophan, and protein, which is the formula for a restful and deep night’s sleep.
Magnesium helps your body’s muscles relax and calms the nerves. Without a good dose of magnesium, your sleep will be more shallow, and you’re more apt to wake up easily and frequently. Foods that contain magnesium include almonds, dark leafy greens, and bananas.
Similar to Magnesium, calcium is a relaxant for your body and induces a deeper sleep. This is why calcium and magnesium are often paired together in vitamins. Foods that contain calcium include milk, yogurt, spinach, almonds, and chia seeds.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is converted into serotonin, the hormone that initiates sleep. No foods contain serotonin, so you have to make sure you cover your bases with tryptophan. It naturally enhances sleep and promotes the body’s production of melatonin. Foods containing tryptophan include dark leafy greens, bananas, chia seeds, almonds, and yogurt.
Finally, protein is important as it reduces stress, repairs muscles, and lowers insulin levels to make sure your body can focus on restorative and reparative sleep. It is also used as a building block for tryptophan to further promote sleep. Foods containing protein include almonds, nuts, seeds, and oats.
Are you starting to see a trend here? Several foods, such as bananas, almonds, dark leafy greens, and chia seeds, continually crossover and cover several key areas needed for a restful night’s sleep. Blend your way to a better night’s sleep!
Alex Davis, Co-creator of Ryan and Alex Duo Life
5. Snack on some nuts.
If I had to choose only one type of food for improved sleep, it would be the nut group (mostly almonds, pistachios, and walnuts). They are a natural source of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone our brain produces. Melatonin works like a signal for sleep, helping us maintain healthier sleep and wake cycles. If you can’t fall asleep or find it difficult to stay asleep throughout the night, eating a handful of nuts before bed might help.
Alex Savy, Certified Sleep Science Coach, Sleeping Ocean
Research shows increasing dietary fiber can increase deep, slow wave sleep and help fight insomnia. Eating refined carbs (added sugars, white bread, soda, etc) causes a rapid increase in blood sugar leading to the release of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which interfere with sleep. Fiber slows the absorption of simple sugars preventing blood sugar spikes and the release of sleep-interfering hormones.
Dan Ford, Sleep Psychologist, The Better Sleep Clinic
7. Optimize your biorhythm.
I think the number one thing to consider in terms of food and better sleep is our biorhythms. Biorhythms refer to the three phases of our day: assimilation, elimination, and appropriation.
When the body is in its phase of assimilation (and processing what we consumed for the day), it is not ideal to be consuming more food. Therefore allowing your digestive system a minimum of 12 hours rest a day is key. For most people, that means not eating or drinking anything 2-3 hours before bed, sleeping for 7-8 hours solid, and then only drinking water in the early morning until you have shifted into the elimination phase of your biorhythm.
The other aspect of supporting optimal digestion, which is essential for quality sleep, is to consume the majority of your food and drink in the appropriation phase, or during daylight hours, when the sun is at its hottest. This is also when your digestive “fire” is primed to receive new nutrients and break them down.
If you eat later in the day, let’s say at 8pm or after, you should choose foods that are light and easy to digest, such as salad, vegetable soups, oatmeal, or maybe a plant-based smoothie to ensure you don’t over tax your digestion while your system is focusing on assimilating what you consumed earlier in the day. Eating anything that is heavy in fat, meat, refined sugar, refined flour or dairy is going to interfere with your sleep cycle by interrupting optimal digestion.
Megan Swan, Megan Swan Wellness
Take it from the experts: how you eat leading up to bedtime can make a big difference in your quality of sleep. If shutting down at the end of the day feels like an impossibility, a melatonin-supplement before bed can help you drift off more easily.
KOR Shot’s Sweet Dreams is a deep purple juice blend of sweet watermelon and dreamy melatonin for helping you nod off faster and deeper. Add KOR to your nighttime routine!