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  • Writer's pictureMartha Calihan MD

Nutritional Considerations for Sleep

Sleep is an amazing thing. I will never understand the people who say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” How do they function? Or maybe they have difficulty sleeping and so avoiding it is their coping mechanism? Anyway, I have known from a very young age that I need plenty of sleep or else I get sick. As a result, I follow good sleep hygiene practices both at bedtime and throughout the day. Your nutrition has a huge impact on your sleep, so it is something to think about all day, not just an hour before bed. Here are a few diet tips to help you sleep better.

Avoid caffeine after 2pm.

            This one is intuitive for some people and not so much for others. If you’re one of those people who feels the effects of caffenine very strongly, you already know this. But for those of us who don’t, we can let a coffee, tea, or chocolate slip in later in the day. Yes, chocolate has caffeine! So if you have trouble sleeping you want to make sure any chocolate snack you are having comes earlier in the day, maybe right after lunch. If you feel like you need caffeine in the afternoon in order to function, you may have blood sugar regulation issues or adrenal hypofunction, both of which can be addressed by proper dietary habits. Avoiding afternoon caffeine will help you sleep better, setting you up to have more energy the following day.

Avoid alcohol

            There are those who say that alcohol helps them sleep. Let’s be clear on this: alcohol can help you fall asleep, but the games it plays with your hormones has you waking up more often and not getting good quality sleep. A number of scientific studies show alcohol intake increases deep sleep initially, but then increases disrupted sleep patterns once blood alcohol levels decrease. Avoid drinking alcohol by itself or in large quantities. This is important for overall health, but can really help with sleep. If you’re going to have a glass of wine, have it with dinner so the protein, fat and fiber in the meal help to keep your hormones in check.

Sip on ashwagandha

            Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that can help with insomnia. A great drink to have before bed is 1 cup unsweetened nut milk, 1 teaspoon ashwagandha, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon honey. Place all ingredients in a small pot on the stove and simmer for 10 minutes. Sip on this warm drink while reading a real book or magazine (no screens!) before bed. Chamomile, lavender and passionflower are also good teas to help relax you before bed.

Set a routine

            This one isn’t nutritional, but is super important. Aim to get to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. About an hour before you’d like to fall asleep, turn off all screens, don’t eat, and do something relaxing such as drinking a warm beverage, taking a shower or bath, or reading a book.

Now you are set up for a more restful nights sleep!

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