We all know that sleep is vital to optimising our health and longevity, but few of us manage to prioritise getting enough of it.
I could tell you a bunch of stuff you already know that will instantly improve your sleep … like putting away the electronics and turning off the TV at least an hour before bedtime, lowering the temperature in your sleeping environment, and getting blackout shades.
But I’ve learned to start smaller and simpler when trying to help people create a new habit.
So it turns out, we can manipulate our nutrition to improve our sleep! There are certain foods (and beverages) that are certain to disrupt and/or interrupt your sleep. By simply avoiding them close to bedtime, your sleep quality will almost instantly improve.
Here they are:
Fried Foods. This is something we should be avoiding anyway, but it’s particularly unhelpful close to bedtime. Fried foods delay stomach emptying and digestion, leaving you feeling like you swallowed a cement block for dinner. I don’t know about you, but trying to sleep with a cement block in my belly would be tough, to say the least.
Afternoon Caffeine. I love my cup of coffee in the morning … the operative term being, morning. Coffee later in the day will stimulate your brain and digestive system, making it more difficult to wind down and relax. Plus, if your energy drops so low in the afternoon that you need that cup of coffee to pick you up, there are most likely other problems that need to be addressed. One of them, ironically, could be poor sleep or lack of sleep … and drinking afternoon coffee is only going to make it worse.
Alcohol. While that glass of wine may calm you down (alcohol is a depressant, after all), it also inhibits sleep quality. To improve your sleep, avoid alcohol at least 4 hours before bedtime … or, whip up a “mocktail” with sparkling water, lime juice and fresh mint.
Red Meat. Foods that are higher in saturated fats have been shown to reduce sleep length and quality. Opt instead for plant-based protein sources that are high in fibre, like lentils, beans or chickpeas. Pair them up with a generous serving of veggies, unsaturated fats from olives, olive oil, avocado or nuts, and whole grains or root vegetables.
Spicy Foods. Hot peppers and spices offer plenty of health benefits. But if eaten close to bedtime, they can result in indigestion or acid reflux, which is going to make for a restless night’s sleep, at best. Choose milder seasonings for dinner, like basil, parsley, dill, rosemary and thyme.
Which one of these simple switches can you make in your pre-bedtime nutrition this week to improve your sleep?