Everyone has trouble falling asleep at some point in their lives, but chronic sleep issues can lead to serious health concerns if left untreated. Chronic insomnia occurs when someone has trouble falling asleep more than three nights per week over the course of three or more months. While many people have sleeping issues on occasion, these problems are particularly prevalent among people experiencing mental health issues, chronic pain, or high levels of stress. If it isn’t nipped in the bud sooner than later, these problems only compound.
There’s no better time to take your health into your own hands than right now. With the new year right around the corner, establishing goals for 2020 is an American tradition. In fact, up to 80% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions with health and wellness goals at the top of their list. Whether that has to do with straightening their smile, losing weight, or sleeping better, focusing on your health is a commendable objective for the new year.
While changing your diet won’t be the answer to all of your health goals, it can certainly help you get a better night’s sleep. If you’re one of the countless Americans who want to sleep better, rely on these five food tips to start your journey:
Focus on nutrients
Your body needs a vast array of nutrients to work at its peak potential, and that includes a good night’s sleep. If you’re unable to sleep well at night, it might be because you’re missing essential vitamins and nutrients from your diet. After all, that’s why more than nine million Americans regularly take prescription sleep medications.
For example, selenium is an overlooked nutrient that plays a vital role in maintaining your sleep cycle and thyroid health. If you’re selenium-deficient, you might also get sick more often since this nutrient helps bolster your immune system. This issue can be particularly common among vegetarians since it’s most often found in beef, chicken, and oysters. Luckily, you can get a healthy dose of selenium by chewing on some Brazil nuts or sunflower seeds, too.
Keep in mind that you don’t need too much selenium to gain its benefits. While it might be tempting to eat an entire steak before bed, try to eat small amounts of these foods earlier in the day to get the best benefits of this nutrient.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that directly affects your body’s ability to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is known for boosting your mood. However, serotonin also plays a role in your sleep cycle. This neurotransmitter serves as a precursor to melatonin production, the key hormone responsible for your sleep and wake cycles. If you’re feeling a little sleepy — or a little gloomy, for that matter — try eating sweet potatoes, chicken, eggs, almonds, bananas, or yogurt for a nutritional boost. You can even freeze your bananas or cool your yogurt if you’re not used to eating these foods. It can be a great way to introduce new foods to your diet since 90% of Americans love a sweet, frozen treat.
Don’t knock cozy beverages
The British may be onto something: studies have shown that caffeine-free tea options can actually promote feelings of relaxation before bed.
This is mostly due to the ingredients found in the tea. Relaxing herbs, like lavender, can quell feelings of anxiety while boosting levels of comfort. Chamomile, on the other hand, is known to have a sedative effect on most people. If you suffer from a particularly bad bout of indigestion, spearmint tea can help alleviate gas and help you relax.
Additionally, the warmth of a hot cup of tea can also help you wind down for the night, especially if it’s a part of your bedtime routine. Just like countless people can’t fall asleep unless they brush their teeth or put on pajamas, many avid tea drinkers can’t imagine going to bed without a cup of tea to keep them cozy.
Eat less before bed
If you usually ingest a large dinner or consume a big snack before hitting the pillow, you might sleep worse, according to some sources. Many people who are prone to indigestion will have trouble falling asleep at night since their body is busy working to digest all that food. On top of that, those with gastro-reflux conditions might suffer from stomach pains and cramping when they lie down for the night.
If you have a tendency to eat a lot before bed, try going on an evening walk or swimming at the local pool to help aid your digestion. Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the United States and it’s easy on your joints. This makes it a fun after-dinner activity for the whole family.
Or try to eat earlier
If you can’t imagine eating a smaller dinner, try eating it earlier. Eating your dinner a couple of hours earlier will give your body more time to digest your meal before bed. Try to eat dinner before 8 p.m. each night to give your body plenty of time to digest your favorite meal. You should also avoid drinking too much water after 8 p.m. since you will be more likely to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Interrupted sleep still counts as a sleep issue, after all.
Avoid “bad” foods that lead to poor sleep
Just like there are good foods and nutrients that bolster melatonin, there are bad foods that can keep you up at night (even if they are delicious). For example, everyone knows that coffee works as a stimulant to keep you awake throughout the day. As such, drinking this beverage in the evening can keep you awake well past your bedtime. This is primarily because caffeine can take up to six hours to leave your body. A great rule of thumb is to stop drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee when 6 p.m. rolls around. That way, there’s plenty of time to get the caffeine out of your system before bed.
On a similar note, you should also avoid drinking alcohol before bed. Even though the 10,000 wine grapes can be hard to resist on a fun night out, the alcohol in wine, beer, and your favorite cocktail can disrupt your sleep cycle. Try to limit your alcohol consumption before bed.
Other foods that are bad for sleep include meat. Because these proteins are hard to digest, your body will work harder to pass it through your system. If you’re a carnivore, chew your meat thoroughly and try to eat it earlier in the day to avoid indigestion later.
Eating the right foods won’t cure all your sleep issues, but they can certainly help. When you’re ready to tackle your New Year’s resolutions early, try these tips for a better night’s sleep.