As many as 68% of Americans in a recent Consumer Reports survey reported having trouble falling or staying asleep at least once a week. With so many reasons to stay awake, including late work nights and the temptations of computer and phone screens, the climbing number of poor sleepers will likely only continue to grow.
Regardless of these distractions, focusing on taking steps towards a better night's sleep has many proven health benefits. Getting the recommended amount of sleep per night for adults at 7-9 hours has been shown to heal and repair heart and blood vessels, and reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Furthermore, getting proper sleep at night can improve concentration, productivity, athletic performance, metabolic functionality, immune system operations, and general levels of happiness.
How can we take steps, therefore, towards improving sleep in our fast-paced and distracting culture? One way to positively impact sleep habits can be found in the foods that we avoid and that we eat. By concentrating on removing certain foods from our diet and buying more slumber-inducing sources of nourishment from the store, we can nurture our bodies' natural abilities to fall and stay asleep on a more consistent basis.
Foods to Avoid
Caffeine: When caffeine is consumed too close to bedtime, it stimulates your central nervous system and causes you to stay awake. Although people react differently to caffeine consumption, drinking a cup of coffee during nighttime hours will decrease the chances of achieving a healthy bedtime for anyone. Avoiding caffeine after the morning is the best way to guarantee the possibility of falling and staying asleep.
Alcohol: Consuming alcohol of any kind, be it a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, has been shown to negatively impact quality of sleep. This is because alcohol quickly metabolizes in your system and leads to many night wakings. In addition to forcing you to wake multiple times at night, it increases your chances of snoring which can lead to further wakings for both yourself and your bed partner.
Fatty Foods: Meals that contain high sources of saturated fats are almost guaranteed to interrupt sound sleep. This is because fat stimulates acid production in the stomach that leads to heartburn. Foods containing high amounts of fat can also loosen the lower esophageal sphincter allowing acid leakages and leading to great discomfort.
Reducing alcohol and coffee are part of the "get more sleep" formula
Foods to Consume
Sleep Tea: Many types of sleep-time tea have been shown to positively impact sleep. A variety of major tea brands produce caffeine-free, herbal teas that contain natural herbs with pro-sleep and anti-anxiety ingredients. These induce a calm condition in the body that encourages the body to enter a sedative state. Chamomile, valerian, lavender, ginger, peppermint, and lemon balm are some of the popular components of these teas that can help individuals achieve a relaxed state for sleep.
Nuts: While the bad, saturated fats contained in a bacon cheeseburger can cause individuals to lose sleep, the heart-healthy fats contained in nuts actually encourage deep sleep. More specifically, almonds and walnuts contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleeping and waking cycles. If individuals eat these nuts on a continual basis, the levels of melatonin in the blood can help regulate sleep over time.
Warm Milk: Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan that has been shown to induce sleep. It also contains small amounts of melatonin. It's thought, however, that the most powerful aspect of warm milk is the psychological link many people have between drinking warm milk before bedtime and falling asleep from childhood. Incorporating warm milk into the bedtime routine has been a proven method for many that has encouraged falling and staying asleep.
Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese, high in lean protein, is a prime food to incorporate into one's diet if trying to promote sleep. This is because it, like milk, contains tryptophan. It also increases serotonin levels which helps one achieve more sustained sleep throughout the night.
Fruits: Many fruit contain melatonin and can aid in achieving deep slumber. Fruits that are known to contain the highest levels of melatonin are cherries, bananas, pineapples, and oranges. By buying tart cherry juice or incorporating other high-melatonin fruits into your after-dinner routine, you may be able to fall asleep faster and wake less often during the night.
Seeking Additional Help
If you find yourself suffering from sleep problems after cutting out caffeine, alcohol, and fatty foods while increasing sleep-promoting foods, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder that only can be treated by a sleep professional. At the Anchorage Sleep Center, you can contact us online and send a message to make your first appointment so that you can achieve continuous, healthy sleep.