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5 Ways to Improve Sleep with a Healthy Diet

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Most people know that diet and exercise go hand in hand but did you also know that your diet has a direct effect on how well and how much you sleep?

How many times have you woken up in the morning after a restless sleep only to move through your day in a zombie-like state promising yourself you would go to bed earlier that night? Now what if I told you that you didn't need to do that but by changing the way you eat throughout your day will have long-lasting effects on the way you sleep?

Let's explore.

Eat breakfast, and eat throughout the day Including regular meals and snacks throughout your day helps our bodies and brain maintain the right balance of hormones and neurotransmitters. These are essential for both falling and staying asleep at night. Aim for a meal or snack every 3-5 hours to keep your body well fuelled and maintain energy levels during the day.

Our bodies use energy when we sleep and experience a fasted state, which is why breakfast is so important. We need food in the morning to restore energy levels and fuel the day ahead. If you're on the run, grab a snack on the way out the door such as a piece of fruit with a hardboiled egg, or wholegrain toast with peanut butter. Aim for something with protein and fibre, which will help keep you going until you can sit down for a more sustainable meal.

Don't skip meals Skipping meals may seem like an easy way to save time, but doing so can throw off your body's normal sleep pattern. Large, late dinners can stimulate alertness and make it challenging for our bodies to rest. If you've accidentally skipped a breakfast or lunch meal, aim to have your next meal a little earlier or have a snack. This will help regulate metabolism and keep your body on cue with regular eating patterns. Remember, it's OK to have a snack before bed or to enjoy later dinner meals, but if you've been having trouble sleeping, it may be worthwhile to try earlier meal and snack times.

Ditch the extreme diet Extreme diets are often very restrictive and can lead to low nutrient and calorie intakes. When our body is lacking nutrients or we try to go to sleep hungry, restlessness can set in. Low iron, for example, can cause symptoms similar to restless leg syndrome, and a deficiency in folic acid can exacerbate insomnia. Zinc, Calcium, and B vitamins are also key players in regulating sleep. Instead of taking the extreme route and cutting out foods, food groups, or calories, try adding more nutrient-dense choices to your daily food routine. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are all chock full of micronutrients and fiber to support sleep and health!

Don't overdo processed foods or coffee Caffeine can take 6-8 hours to fully metabolize and affects our blood pressure and heart rate. Processed foods, such as pre-packaged frozen meals, pastries, or salty snacks, contain a lot of sugar and sodium, which can interrupt sleep by creating blood sugar and blood pressure spikes. If you enjoy a cup of coffee or a treat during the day, and include them in moderation, and aim to have these foods earlier on in the day when our bodies have more time to metabolize and process them.

Go herbal Before bed, having a cup of calming herbal tea can help set the mood for a good night's rest. Chamomile and peppermint tea are popular varieties for an evening nightcap. The warmth and aroma of an herbal tea can be calming and help relax our bodies and our mind before bed.

Sleep is so important for our health and wellbeing, and it's all too often that people struggle to get a good night's rest. While nutrition can positively impact our sleep habits, sometimes eating well just isn't enough. If you've been having trouble getting a restful night's sleep, and haven't had any success with home remedies, it may be a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor or reach out to your EFAP for support or to access a 12 Weeks to Wellness health coach.

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