Many people have trouble sleeping and there are various reasons for this—some of which are related to your diet. How can your diet and nutritional supplements influence your sleep quality? Here are a few tips you need to know:
Food and Drinks to Avoid Before Bed
We have all heard that you shouldn’t eat or drink anything containing caffeine before retiring to sleep. There are a lot of food and drinks which contain caffeine, including tea, soda, ice cream, chocolate, coffee, and energy drinks.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, your ability to remove it from your body may be quite slow or impaired. Caffeine sensitivity is easy to determine by how you respond to it at various dosages.
If you get the “shakes” after drinking a cup of coffee, you are probably caffeine sensitive. If this is the case, you should try and avoid all foods and beverages which contain caffeine at least three to four hours before bed.
Drinking alcohol during the evening hours can also impair your ability to sleep because the alcohol adversely affects your brain chemistry.
Excessive amounts of alcohol can keep you awake and adversely affects your sleep cycle. I would recommend that you stop drinking several hours before sleeping and replace those drinks with water to restore adequate hydration before bed.
The consumption of certain foods can also affect the quality of your sleep. When you eat a lot of simple carbs, such as those found in white flour, rice, candy, soda, and baked goods before bed, your blood sugar can drastically drop which can keep you awake and prevent you from sleeping soundly.
The key is to eat complex carbs like whole grains and legumes and lean proteins like cottage cheese or yogurt before bedtime. This will keep your blood sugar stable and increase the levels of sleep-inducing serotonin. Other than these some more foods and drink that you can consume for better sleep include green tea, banana and lemon water.
This is a very common complaint and can account for many cases of disturbed sleep. This condition is caused from recurrent muscular contractions of the lower legs. The management of restless legs syndrome depends upon the cause. If it’s due to iron deficiency, this problem has to be corrected by increasing your consumption of red meats and seafood. Taking an iron supplement may also be advisable but stick with a product which produces no upset stomach.
I have found that, in the absence of any recognizable pathology, taking supplements containing sublingual vitamin B12 at a dosage of 500-1,000 mcg during the day may be helpful. You may also want to try taking calcium (1,000 mg), magnesium (600 mg) and vitamin D (5-10,000 IU) once a day maximum to induce relaxation of the muscles.
There are several products that you can use that may be helpful before bed. Teas containing passionflower, skullcap, and chamomile may allow you to fall asleep easier.
Another herbal product known as valerian root is also used as a supplement causing relaxation before bed. Valerian tea, containing the equivalent of two to three grams of valerian root, is typically used to improve the level of relaxation and has a mild sedative effect.
Melatonin is naturally produced within the brain to induce sleep during the exposure to darkness. This hormone can also be taken as a supplement and has previously been demonstrated to decrease jetlag.
However, melatonin is only effective if your levels of melatonin are quite low. As this is the case with increasing age, I recommend taking one mg of melatonin at least one hour before bedtime in adults over 65.
Not getting a good night’s sleep can ruin your day, your productivity, and your overall health. Make sure you’re sleeping peacefully by avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and sweets before bed—it will make a difference!
Allen, R.E., et al., “Nocturnal leg cramps,” Am Fam Physician. August 15, 2012; 86(4): 350-5.
Murray, M., et al., Encyclopedia of Naturopathic Medicine, (Prima Publishing, 1998): 602-608.