Will Eat for Better zZzZ's...

Nutrition Tips to Optimize Sleep
by NatureBox Nutritionist Kat Brown, MS RD RYT

We all know that a good night’s sleep is crucial for focus, mood, and energy levels. But did you know that burning the midnight oil could also be detrimental to your health? Large studies have shown an association between lack of sleep, weight gain and factors that regulate appetite and blood sugar levels. Plus, when you’re exhausted,  it’s tough to want to exercise and it becomes way too tempting to reach for a sugary snack or caffeine to (temporarily) boost your energy- habits that can be harmful in the long run.

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Along with lifestyle factors, what, how much and when you eat can affect your sleep. Let’s review some pointers to help you score a great night’s rest.

  • The size and nutritional content of your meals can drastically affect the quality of your sleep. Sleep research suggests that high fat diets are associated with fewer total hours of sleep. Higher glycemic index meals (those with easily digested carbs such as rice and bread) may help you get to sleep. Maybe swapping that low carb, high fat meal for a small serving of baguette with dinner isn’t looking too bad for you insomniacs out there?
  • Also, if you’ve ever tried to get to sleep on an overly full belly, you know (and research supports) that a heavy meal too close to bedtime can negatively affect sleep as your stomach attempts digestion. So try to plan your evening meal to be either 4 hours before bed or have it on the light side, with a moderate portion of high fat and high protein foods. 
  • Certain foods and drinks can affect your sleep as well. We all know that caffeine and other stimulants can decrease your ability to get to sleep, so taper the coffee, caffeinated tea and even dark chocolate intake at least 4-6 hours before bed. While a nightcap may seem like a relaxing way to end the day, alcohol can decrease the amount of restful sleep you get, so be mindful of your intake if you suffer from poor sleep. And while staying hydrated throughout the day is very important, keep in mind that if you guzzle too much water before bedtime your sleep may be disturbed by trips to the bathroom.

Consider other aspects of your life when trying to fine-tune your sleep that may not be nutrition-related but can help contribute to sounder sleeping. Do your best to unplug from the television and technology a few hours before bed, go to sleep on a regular schedule, and leave plenty of time between your evening exercise routine and bedtime.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep! Enjoy those zzz’s and share how you like to ensure you get a better night’s rest. 

Let’s Discuss: Are there any foods that you find help you get to sleep better at night? Share in the comment section below!

Kat Brown, MS RD RYT is a San Francisco Bay Area based Registered Dietitian and Yoga Teacher. As a nutrition counselor, writer, cook, and yogini she seeks to inspire others to nourish themselves and live balanced, fulfilled lives. 

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