How to Eat to Sleep
There are over-the-counter sleep aids, prescription medications, and techniques you can use to train yourself to have better sleep habits. But one area you may not have considered is controlling your sleep success through your food choices!
We like to joke about having to nap after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, but there’s some truth behind that kidding. There really are foods that help you sleep – and some that keep you awake, so if you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, you’ll want to consider your food choices carefully!
Certain foods create a calming effect on your brain, while others rev it up for more activity. Turkey is a sleep-aiding food because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin, which calms your brain and helps you sleep.
It’s kind of like sewing a piece of clothing – you can make a shirt without a needle, thread, and fabric. Your body needs tryptophan to help it create neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, which result in restful sleep.
When you combine tryptophan-laden foods with carbohydrates, it helps the body absorb it so that you sleep better. Regular high-protein diets can keep you awake if they’re no paired with carbs because proteins contain tyrosine, which wakes you up!
To leverage your food choices, try to pair proteins and carbs the way you want your body to work throughout the day. Choose higher protein meals in the morning and afternoon, and eat more carbs in the evenings closer to bedtime.
You can’t exclude the tryptophan because an all-carb meal will defeat the purpose, keeping you awake even more. If you can sneak some calcium into your evening meal, you’ll reap even greater rewards, since calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan.
Foods that are high in tryptophan include beans, chicken, dairy, eggs, hazelnuts, hummus, lentils, meat, peanuts, rice, soy, seafood, sesame and sunflower seeds, and whole grains. So a perfect evening snack might be whole-grain cereal with milk or even oatmeal cookies with milk.
Full meals could include veggies with meat or chicken, chili and beans, or pasta with cheese. Just remember that when you over-indulge on a meal, it may cause you to not sleep as well – since your digestive system will be working overtime.
When you eat tryptophan, the sleep-inducing effects won’t take place immediately. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for you to begin feeling drowsy, so eat early in the evening.
Aside from tryptophan, there are other foods you should be aware of in regard to how it affects your slumber, like caffeine for instance. Caffeine can be found in many products – even your over-the-counter cold medicine! It stimulates your nervous system, keeping you awake – even when you don’t want to be.
Keep a food journal to see how your nighttime meals affect your slumber. If you discover that certain foods keep you up at night, try to move those to the early menu of your day and reserve the evening for foods that are “sleep-friendly.”
Choosing the Best Bed for a Good Night’s Sleep
Many people make a mistake that robs them of getting enough sleep. While keeping your bedroom quiet, dark and clutter-free is important to your quality of sleep, none of that will make a difference if you have the wrong kind of bed.
Size does matter. You need the right size bed so you have to room to sleep at night without feeling like you’re being cramped or confined to a small space. Quality matters, too – in every component of your bed.
Starting with the frame, if you have a poorly constructed frame, it won’t support your box springs or mattress correctly. Your frame should not bow, have cracks or be warped anywhere. Your box spring is the base or foundation that keeps your mattress in good shape.
A poor box spring will cause your mattress to lose firmness and can contribute to the development of worn places. You need quality in your mattress and your mattress cover. The wrong mattress cover will give you an uncomfortable night’s sleep because it won’t keep away moisture and you’ll wake to feel hot and sweaty.
The right mattress cover can cut down on allergens, too. Your pillows and blankets should also be top quality. Everything needs to be optimal in order for you to achieve a deep slumber.
Beds aren’t supposed to make noise when you turn over or shift your weight. If a bed does this, it’s not the right one to buy – and if you have one that’s noisy, it’s time to replace it.
For the number of hours that you have every day to get a comfortable night of sleep, to put up with less than the best bed is a mistake. Your bed is the key to how you’re going to function in your waking hours.
It’s the key to good back and muscle health. It’s also the key to looking and feeling rested. How can you know if it’s time to replace the bed? If your mattress is older than 10 years, it’s time to start looking for another one.
The reason that mattresses have a certain number of years on the guarantee is that graduating up to that timeframe, a mattress slowly starts to wear and then gives way to worn places, broken springs and more.
Having a mattress that’s poor quality or too old is the reason they sag. If your body dips on the mattress when you lay down and you can get up and still see a sunken-in spot, it’s time to replace it. If your mattress has lumps, you need a new one.
When you’re choosing a bed, ignore the price and the hype associated with any of the names on the mattresses. You want to choose a bed based on how it suits you and don’t take a salesman’s word for it. Feel the material if you’re buying from a store. If you’re ordering online, pay attention to the reviews.
How to Tell If You Have a Sleep Disorder
There are many people that have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. They may feel very sleepy during the day. They may have trouble falling to sleep or staying asleep. Friends or relatives may tell them they look very tired. They may experience mood changes, irritability or become overly emotional. Often they have difficulty paying attention, concentrating, or remembering things that are important. These are all symptoms of sleep deprivation, and possibly of a sleep disorder.
A person that has an undiagnosed sleep disorder will usually answer the question, “What is the problem with your sleep,” with one of five answers. Those answers will be; “I have trouble falling asleep,” ” I have trouble staying awake,” “I can’t get up in the morning,” “I seem to do strange things in my sleep” or “I can’t sleep because of my partner.” The particular answer chosen helps to narrow down the possibility of a specific type of sleep disorder.
When someone says “I can’t fall asleep” it can mean several things. There could be a problem when first going to bed, after waking up in the middle of the night, or in the early morning hours.
Many people have the problem of not being able to fall asleep when they go to bed. This is called sleep latency. Sleep latency can be a very serious symptom of certain sleep disorders, including sleep onset insomnia, delayed sleep phase disorder, shift work, restless leg syndrome or paradoxical insomnia. Many times the problem is not being able to stay asleep, which is sleep fragmentation. Often a person with this complaint can fall to sleep easily when they go to bed, but wake up often throughout the night. Sleep disorders may include sleep maintenance insomnia, shift work. If a person wakes up very early in the morning and cannot get back to sleep, it could be a sign of advanced sleep phase disorder or sleep maintenance insomnia.
If the answer to the question is “I can’t stay awake” and the person is falling asleep at inappropriate times there may be a sleep disorder such as narcolepsy, obstructive or central sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, restless leg syndrome, shift work or advanced sleep phase disorder.
Those that say “I can’t get up in the morning” and take an hour or more to fully wake from their sleep may suffer from excessive sleep inertia. They are having difficulty making the transition from sleep to being awake. Sleep disorders that could be responsible for excessive sleep inertia are sleep apnea and delayed sleep phase disorder.
A person that answers the question with “I do strange things in my sleep” may find that their sleep is full of surprises. Sleepwalking, Sleep terrors, confusional arousals, REM sleep behavior disorder, nightmares, sleep-related eating disorder, and bruxism are all types of sleep disorders known as parasomnias.
If a person answers “I can’t sleep because of my partner” snoring, sleep apnea, bruxism, restless leg syndrome, or periodic limb movement disorder may be the sleep disorder to blame.
How would you answer the question of “What is the problem with your sleep?”