3 Nutrition Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. You’re lying in bed, your body and mind are tired, yet you can’t fall asleep. Tick tock. One hour, two hours, three hours. When you finally doze off, you have just a few hours left before you need to get up again.
Or, maybe falling asleep is not that difficult for you, but you wake up frequently during the night and somehow never seem to get that deep sleep that would help you wake up rested and refreshed in the morning.
Most people contribute their poor sleep to having a lot on their mind, stress, drinking too much coffee and perhaps to using their mobile phones or watching TV just before bed (or yes, I hear you parents - having small children can contribute to poor sleep too!).
But the truth is that there’s one other factor that massively affects your sleep and that we often forget about – and that’s the food that you eat (or don’t eat) every day.
The reason why your nutrition matters so much for your sleep is that what you eat dramatically influences two areas of your health that have a direct impact on your sleep – your blood sugar (and how stable it is) and the presence of certain nutrients that help regulate your sleep, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin D.
For example, magnesium is a mineral that helps your nervous system calm down and supports muscle relaxation, so if you are running low on it, you’re more likely to struggle to fall asleep and will probably also have a more restless sleep. On the other hand, if your blood sugar is out of balance, you might wake up more frequently during the night. Vitamin D and calcium have also been linked to sleep disturbances, so making sure that you get enough of them is key to helping you achieve a good night’s rest.
So what can you do to make sure that these imbalances don’t affect your sleep?
Here 3 simple tips to get you started:
(1) Eat a small snack about 30 min before bed
Make sure that the snack contains a good amount of unrefined carbohydrates and some healthy fat, as this will help to stabilise your blood sugar, allow you to sleep better and reduce the chances of night wakings. A snack of this sort could for example include a handful of berries with half a cup of full-fat plain yogurt, ½ banana with a teaspoon of any unsweetened nut butter or mashed avocado with some sliced bell peppers.
(2) Stock up on dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and pulses, nuts and salmon
These foods are the richest sources of magnesium and if you can, try to include several of them in your meals every day. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you drink a lot of coffee, alcohol or other caffeinated drinks, are chronically stressed, take contraceptive pills or have poor gut health, you’ll need more magnesium in your diet as you otherwise would, so stocking up on these foods and including them in your meals on a daily basis is key.
(3) Check your vitamin D levels
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a central role in several different aspects of our health and a lack of vitamin D has also been associated with different sleep disturbances. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough of this nutrient due to insufficient exposure to the sunlight, so checking your vitamin D status regularly (e.g. once a year), is a good idea. This will not only help you make sure that a lack of it doesn’t negatively affect your sleep but will also help you properly support other areas of your health, including your immune system, your bones as well as your hormone health.