The notion that in order to be fit and healthy, your body needs good nutrition applies to more than your waking hours.
“To prepare your body for a good night’s sleep, what you eat throughout the day can have a positive impact on overall energy, mood and the ability to achieve a restorative sleep,” said integrative nutritionist Jeannie Paris, RD, LD. “Good nutrition and good sleep go hand in hand.”
Tips on eating well to sleep well
- Be careful with alcohol. Alcohol can disrupt sleep and cause fatigue the next day. Limiting alcohol may improve sleep. If you do have an alcoholic beverage, follow it with a glass of water to help rehydrate the body.
- Serotonin is important to sleep. Serotonin is the “deep sleep neurotransmitter.” It is depleted in the body by alcohol, sugar, stress, caffeine and processed foods. If you are having trouble with sleep, try avoiding caffeinated beverages after lunch. Also try boosting intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Magnesium is necessary for the body to process serotonin. Vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folic acid are also needed to synthesize serotonin.
- Incorporate nutrient-rich foods to help achieve a healthy, restorative sleep. Along with avoiding foods that deplete serotonin, try incorporating foods that give your body tryptophan—an essential amino acid and a precursor of serotonin. These include: cheese, yogurt, eggs, poultry, meat and fish, and also nuts such as pecans, almonds or walnuts. In order to boost serotonin levels, tryptophan needs the help of a complex carbohydrate, such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, barley or yams.
- Fight fatigue with food. There are many hidden causes to fatigue. Don’t ignore it. It’s important to have chronic fatigue checked out in order to rule out any medical causes. When the body is deficient in certain nutrients, it loses its ability to fight fatigue. These include vitamin D, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, iron and magnesium. Seek professional help from a nutritionist to learn more about incorporating these nutrients into your diet.
- Try natural remedies to help with sleep. Certain teas such as chamomile before bedtime or scents such as lavender may help calm the body. Melatonin supplement may also be helpful for falling asleep, however be sure to talk with a health care professional before taking any supplements.
- Know that sleep challenge changes as you age. Many people experience sleep issues during their 40s or 50s. For women, menopause and perimenopause are often factors. Hormonal fluctuations may cause sleep disruptions or hot flashes during sleep. Good nutrition plays an important role in dealing with these changes. The recommendations on how to address these issues are so individualized that it’s important to talk to a health profession.