A look at the foods and drinks that help and hurt your ability to sleep well every night.
If you have a hard time sleeping, you probably have a hard time staying awake, too. And when you’re sleep deprived, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get better sleep. However, better sleep doesn’t have to require medication. Getting good sleep may be as simple as changing your diet.
Here are some ways to use what you consume during the day to your advantage when it’s time to hit the hay.
Make Dinner a Light Affair. Eating a gigantic dinner may seem like a good solution to your frequent hunger-induced night awakenings. However, eating lots of food—particularly high-fat foods—can prevent you from getting the quantity and quality of sleep you need for optimal health. This is particularly true if you eat dinner within an hour or two before going to bed.
Go Easy on the Caffeine. Each day, you start out with a cup of coffee to get your motor running. Unfortunately, if you drink caffeine all day (especially the last few hours before going to bed), your body is still going to be going strong well after you’re ready for it to calm down. Prevent restless caffeinated nights by cutting yourself off from any type of caffeine after dinner. If this isn’t early enough, try stopping your caffeine consumption after lunch. Also, if you are taking any kind of medication, check with your pharmacist to find out if it contains caffeine and either find a different medication or take it well before settling down for the night.
Snuff out Your Cigarettes. You may reach for a smoke when you’re in stressful situations to calm your nerves, but dragging on a cigarette isn’t going to relax your body before bedtime. In fact, one of the main ingredients of cigarettes—nicotine—is a stimulant. So while you may think a quick smoke before bedtime will help you calm down for a good night of Zs, it will actually do the exact opposite.
Eat a Little Later. If you eat dinner at 5 p.m. and don’t go to bed until 11 p.m., you’re going to get hungry in the middle of the night. By pushing dinner back an hour or two, you reduce your chance of waking up for a midnight snack. Can’t do dinner any later? Eat a small, healthy snack about three hours before bedtime to fend off any potential hunger attacks in the night.
Leave the Peppers Alone. They taste great and complement all your favorite foods, but if peppers, chilies, and other spicy foods cause you to suffer reflux or heartburn, leave them at the store. Otherwise, you’ll be burning and burping your way to yet another restless night.
Go for the Cow. Mama always told you to drink milk before bedtime, and it was for good reason. According to experts, milk and other dairy foods contain a sleep-inducing substance called tryptophan. Prefer to get your tryptophan through other food groups? Grab a banana, bowl of oatmeal, spoonful of honey, or chicken leg. You’ll get the same sleepy eyes as you would with a warm glass of milk.
Sip Alcohol Gently. Though alcohol has a reputation for making people sleepy, it also comes with a downside. Because while it may help you get to sleep initially, alcohol may keep you from entering deep sleep that helps you feel rested. It may also result in you waking up during the night.
Beware the Bulging Bladder. Staying hydrated is essential to staying focused and maintaining your good health. Just make sure you’re not downing a gallon of water an hour before lying down for the night, unless you don’t mind waking up a couple times to use the restroom. A good rule of thumb to avoid using the restroom during the night is to stop serious hydration three hours before bed. After this time, only take an occasion sip to keep your mouth and throat moist.
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