Getting high-quality sleep is important for your overall health. Sleep gives you energy, boosts your immune system, supports your brain health, and helps your body recover from injury or illness.
But long-term sleep deprivation can have a major impact on your health, increasing your risk for health issues such as heart attacks, stroke, obesity, and infertility.
While there are many strategies you can use to get a good night’s rest, developing a practice of mindfulness around the foods and drinks you put into your body can greatly improve your sleep quality.
Let’s explore the ways in which what you eat and drink impacts how you sleep.
Food and Drinks to Avoid Before Bed
First, let’s start with the foods and drinks you should avoid before you go to sleep.
- Alcohol: For many people, the term “nightcap” is synonymous with enhanced sleep. But while alcohol may make you initially feel drowsy or fall asleep, it actually disrupts sleep patterns. So even though you may get sleepy after a glass or two of Syrah, alcohol can lower your high-quality REM sleep and may even cause you to wake up during the night. Ultimately, this wakefulness can leave you feeling even more tired the next day.
- Fatty foods: While some fatty foods contain healthy fats — think avocados, nuts, and olive oil — it’s best to avoid excessively fatty foods before hitting the hay. Foods such as chips, french fries, or other fast foods are not only fatty but are often high in sodium. This sodium + fat combination not only dehydrates your body, it slows down your body’s ability to digest the food you’ve eaten. The result: bloating and indigestion that can impact your sleep.
- Caffeine: You may want to skip that late-in-the-day latte. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can keep you up well past your bedtime. Although many people use coffee as their primary source of caffeine, you should also avoid these unexpected sources of caffeine:
- Green tea
- Decaf coffee (yes, it contains caffeine!)
- Sugar: Excessive sugar before bed can spike your blood sugar and lead you to experience restless sleep. It can also increase inflammation in the body, which can make it difficult for you to relax or fall asleep.
- Large portions of food: Resist the urge to load up your plate with a heavy meal before bedtime. Your body will have difficulty digesting large amounts of food while trying to rest. Your best bet is to avoid eating anything at least two hours before bed.
8 Foods and Drinks That Can Help You Sleep
Here are some go-to foods that can enhance your quality of sleep.
1. Nuts: Nutrition experts have long considered walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews “good” foods for sleep. This is because these nuts contain trace amounts of melatonin — the human sleep hormone — among other essential nutrients for sleep regulation, such as magnesium and zinc.
2. Kiwi: Kiwis are packed with nutrients, including potassium, folate, and Vitamins C and E. While it’s important to supplement these nutrients in your diet, researchers are not entirely clear about why kiwis promote better sleep. One study found that people who ate two kiwis before bedtime slept longer, experienced higher quality sleep, and fell asleep twice as fast.
3. Fatty fish: Eating fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, or tuna, can help boost Zzzs, thanks to the added Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Both nutrients help regulate the body’s levels of serotonin, which can improve sleep and digestion.
4. White rice: Although comparatively low in nutrients and fiber, white rice has been known to improve sleep. The infamous grain contains a high glycemic index (or, GI) and research has shown that eating foods with a high GI before bedtime can support rest.
5. Water: While you shouldn’t chug a large glass of water right before bedtime, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Staying hydrated can improve the quality of your overall sleep. Your body is at its most dehydrated when you’re asleep; drinking water throughout the day will prevent your bladder from suffering the effects of H2O overload before you slip under the covers.
6. Tart cherry juice: Tart cherries have been shown to contain above-average levels of melatonin. Drinking a glass or two of tart cherry juice can help regulate the quality of your overall sleep, thanks to the extra melatonin in your system.
7. Malted milk: Although we have debunked the myth that warm milk improves sleep, malted milk may be a good alternative that actually works. Malted milk is made by combining milk with a powder of malted wheat and other nutrients. The milk itself contains melatonin, while the malted portion contains vitamins D and B.
8. Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea contains flavones — a kind of antioxidant that reduces stress and inflammation. Studies have shown that, in addition to boosting your immune system, chamomile can help people fall asleep faster and reduce anxiety.
The Bottom Line
Getting quality sleep is crucial to your overall health. But if you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, there are several foods and drinks that may help.
Just be sure to consume them at least two hours before bed.
What food or drink are you most excited to try? Let us know if the comments!