Do you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep? How many things have you tried?

Research suggests that the way you eat affects the quality of your sleep. By making some adjustments in your diet and when you eat, can help you get better quality rest each night.

Changing the Way You Eat

Understand the circular effects. Sleep affects your diet and vice versa. I’m sure you’ve experienced having a rough night. You may be tired, a bit cranky and it seems the junk food jumps in your mouth, right? Quality rest helps curb excess appetite, and can help keep cravings at bay. A good night’s sleep can be a factor in helping prevent weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and many other serious conditions.

Eat a wide variety of foods.  Did you know that people who slept 7 to 8 hours a night were found to have eaten the  greatest variety of foods?  A diverse diet not only tastes good, but it also enhances your chances of getting all the nutrients your body needs.

Cut back on calories. Unfortunately, sleep issues are more common in people who are overweight. Excess weight can be a factor in many health issues, but if problematic sleep is one of your challenges, dropping some of the extra weight may help.

Have a small snack before bed (IF you feel hungry). Usually it’s best to avoid eating anything about three hours before going to bed. However, if you are feeling a little hungry before bedtime, grabbing a nutritious snack before bed can keep hunger pangs from waking you up during the night. You’ll be a lot less likely to wander into the kitchen and inhale five cookies!

Watch your caffeine. My husband can have a cup of coffee right before he goes to bed. If I have caffeine after 10 AM, it affects my sleep. Everyone is different, so becoming more aware of caffeine’s effects can help you when it comes to getting better sleep. Caffeine tends to heighten your awareness temporarily, but it can lead to a blood sugar crash (just like sugar).  Consume smaller servings of caffeine filled drinks. And it’s a good idea to avoid all caffeine for at least 4 hours before bedtime.

Spot hidden sources of caffeine. Even if you give up coffee, you may still be ingesting caffeine. It’s also present in chocolate as well as in many medications, black tea, and soft drinks.

Alcohol can be tricky. Alcoholic beverages may put you to sleep faster, but they’ll interfere with the deeper stages of sleep that are the most restorative. Try to drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women and two for men. And monitor how you feel. My body does not tolerate alcohol well at all, so I gave that up years ago. Pay attention to how well you sleep and if you see some restlessness, avoid it for a week and see if there’s a positive change.

Prepare for the afternoon slump. Do you feel like you need a nap around 2:30 or 3:00.  If you eat a big lunch, that slump is partly due to the energy being used for digestion and may also be from the types of food you ate. Sugary foods or desserts can lead to that dip several hours later. If you find yourself having that energy slump, drink several glasses of water and go outside for a short walk to naturally re-charge.

Changing the Foods You Eat

Pay attention to micronutrients. People who sleep well also show higher levels of micronutrients. Micronutrients are important substances your body requires in small amounts. A varied diet full of whole, unprocessed foods will give your body more of these essential nutrients.

Choose foods that contain tryptophan. The amino acid tryptophan promotes sleep. You can find it in foods like dairy products, eggs, and nuts.

Eat more complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates enhance the effects of tryptophan.  So include some whole grains, like rice or a sweet potato with your evening meal.

Get enough protein. Dietary protein is the source of tryptophan. While your body is unique, getting about 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories from protein is a good amount to keep in mind. Monitor and see how you feel. I need a lot of protein each day. When I don’t eat enough protein my energy tanks and I don’t sleep well. As we’ve been discussing, pay attention to what you eat and how you feel to find what’s best for you.

Limit spicy foods. Foods with too much spice may trigger heartburn when you lay down in bed. If you love spicy foods, eat them for lunch rather than your evening meal.

Avoid commercial energy drinks. The popularity of today’s energy drinks create a number of problems. They are loaded with high amounts of caffeine and sugar. Ditch those drinks for coffee, if you need a boost. Whenever possible, choose natural stimulants, like drinking plenty of water or taking a daily walk to avoid interrupting your sleep.

Include magnesium in your diet.  Most Americans are deficient in magnesium. Low magnesium can disrupt your sleep. It can be a factor in leg cramps and headaches. Foods rich in magnesium are dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans/lentils, avocados, and bananas. We also drink CALM brand magnesium a few hours before bed.

There may be some medical reasons for your sleep problems, but many times changing what and when you eat can make a significant change in getting quality rest. Eating foods rich in variety and high in nutrients, along with choosing sensible late night snacks, will help keep you trim and well-rested.

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