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What You Eat During The Day Can Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep

January 07, 2021

Whether it’s stress, anxiety related to the COVID virus or something else, a lot of us are not sleeping well these days. Pinpointing the cause can be tough, but there may be a link between what you eat and drink during the day.

Certain food groups or properties that benefit overall health, however, can also help you get a good night’s sleep. Many experts define a good amount of sleep for adults as 7-9 hours a night.

Here are a few ways to get a better night’s sleep:

Foods High In Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of circadian rhythms and with sleep.

Though melatonin is produced in the body, you can also consume foods that contain it, like almonds, which you can snack on throughout the day.

Foods like cottage cheese and plain yogurt also contain tryptophan, which increases the production of melatonin.

If you’re consuming a large portion of melatonin-rich foods or taking a supplement, it is recommended to wait at least 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed. That’s how long it takes for the melatonin to have an effect on the body.

Foods High In Magnesium

Magnesium, an important mineral necessary for overall health, is another winner when it comes to catching some sleep.

Magnesium’s role in promoting sleep is thought to be related to its ability to reduce inflammation. It may help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep. Some studies have estimated that up to 75 percent of Americans are actually magnesium deficient. But loading up on magnesium-rich foods isn’t too hard, as it’s found in leafy greens, almonds, peanut butter, flax and sunflower seeds.

Eat Whole Foods, Not Processed Foods

Whole foods are foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible. They’re packed with fiber and should be consumed in abundance during the day to make you sleep better at night.

These foods contribute to balanced nutrition and ultimately prove helpful when it’s time to go to bed. They help settle the digestive system, while sugary or overly processed meals can lead to spikes in blood sugar.

A few options are eggs with 100 percent whole grain bread, pan-seared salmon with bulgur pilaf also packed with magnesium. Tofu, tempeh or other protein options can be used to make the meal vegan.

Stay away from caffeine in the evening

Caffeine — coffee, soda and chocolate — should be stopped at least 4-6 hours before going to sleep due to caffeine staying in the system for up to 12 hours.

Also, decaffeinated beverages still have trace amounts of caffeine that may keep you up at night.

Keep Spicy foods to a minimum

Research also suggests that capsaicin, a compound found in spicy foods, may increase body temperature,  interfering with your sleep. There is no need to steer clear of spicy foods altogether, but it is best to limit your intake a few hours before bed.

Everyone deserves a Good Night’s Sleep!

Sharon Knight is a transplant dietitian with the Hartford Hospital Transplant Program.