Believe it or not, a “good sleep diet” is a thing that exists in the real world. Although it’s not what you would typically think of when it comes to dieting. It may seem confusing at first, but we’ll clear up this confusion right here, right now. Get ready for the 411 on the good sleep diet.
Step Number One Get Used to Sleeping on a Regular Schedule
Before you even think about how changing your dinner plate can help you sleep, you need to start thinking about another big, important circle: your clock. Well, your body clock, at least. Your internal rhythm has evolved in ways that expect certain meals at certain times in certain quantities. And if you eat against your body’s natural schedule, it can give you some serious sleep problems.
Did you ever notice that the acronym for the “Standard American Diet” is SAD? We don’t think this is a coincidence. Over the last few decades, unhealthy eating habits – largely proliferated by greedy corporations and food producers – have been ingrained into our psyche. There’s plenty of proof that these eating habits are unnatural and unhealthy, and there are dozens of documentaries which show the proof. But we’re not going to dig too deep into that today. Right now, we’re mostly concerned with pointing out the flaws and the dangers of the Standard American Diet. Such as:
- Skipping breakfast nearly every day, or eating a breakfast that’s too small
- Grazing all day by eating small snacks and skipping lunch
- Eating most of your calories in the evening – especially if you eat very complex meals
Some or all of these habits could be contributing to your sleep problems. Thankfully, science has the answer. We looked at the research and realize that the common consensus tells people to flip that eating pattern right on its head. Start by:
- Breakfast is the new dinner – eat the majority of your calories right when you get up in the morning, not at night before your supposed to fall asleep
- No skipping lunch – eating big meals at opposite ends of your day can seriously mess up your circadian rhythm
- Dinner is the new breakfast – you see what we did there? The fewer calories you eat, the easier it will be to fall asleep in the evening because you won’t be loading your body with a ton of energy when you’re supposed to be getting ready for rest
- No matter what, stop eating two hours before your bed time, if not earlier
- If you absolutely, positively have to eat something right before bed, keep it simple. Consume a small portion of healthy protein with a small portion of healthy carbs. These two things together will release neurotransmitters in your brain that promote relaxation
Experts sometimes refer to these patterns as the Upside Down Pyramid eating schedule. And if you sit down to think about it, this eating regimen can make a lot of sense. It’s like starting your day with a full tank of gas, and going to bed on an empty tank. Eating more of your calories in the morning gives you more energy to tackle your day with a running start. Plus, at the end of the day, why would you load yourself up with energy? You should only do that when you need it – not at night, when you’re supposed to be at rest. Otherwise, the calories you eat in the evening will end up stored in your fat cells before anything else.
Make Good Sleep Hygiene a Part of Your Good Sleep Diet
It’s not just changing your feeding schedule that’s going to help you sleep better at night. Changing your bedtime routine is an important part of establishing a good sleep diet. But you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run. Here is some of the easiest good sleep hygiene habits you can start developing tonight:
- Turn off your electronic devices (or wear some anti-blue light glasses) about 2 to 3 hours before bed so that your brain can produce more melatonin
- Assuming you can afford a higher energy bill, turn your thermostat down to 68 degrees so that the cooler environment can trigger sleep hormones in your body
- Electronic light isn’t the only light you have to watch out for; ambient light in general can disturb your sleep if you don’t put up some blackout curtains or other obstructions
While we’re at it, we want to make one more important note: sleeping pills should not be a part of your bedtime routine if you can avoid it. This is especially true for over-the-counter sleep drugs, or prescription sleep aids. These pills interfere with your body’s natural ability to sleep and can even reduce the quality of your rest. Natural sleep aids, on the other hand, are perfect for relaxing you enough to fall asleep on your own without ruining your sleep.
Eating Well on a Good Sleep Diet
Finally, we’re getting to the “diet” part: the part we talk about what you should eat. Changing your routine is most of the battle – but changing what’s on your dinner plate will bring everything together.
If you don’t shop in the produce section of the grocery store very often, you’re going to need to start. Incorporating whole foods into your diet is an important part of not just better sleep, but better health in general. The more of your food that comes out of a can, a bag, a box, or the freezer section, the worse your sleep habits will be. This is because most processed food is a combination of sugar, trans fats, and an excessive amount of salt with extremely little nutritional value. And this is bad for your sleep because:
- Highly processed protein prevent your body from converting amino acids into serotonin, tryptophan, and melatonin; without these hormones in your body, you’ll feel awake and restless at bedtime
- Processed food doesn’t have the complex carbohydrates do you need to unlock the sedative powers of tryptophan, melatonin, or GABA (another important neurotransmitter in the brain which promotes relaxation)
- If you aren’t eating enough healthy fats, then you’re also setting yourself up for disaster because these fats will block your brain’s ability to tell your body to produce more melatonin and amino acids like tryptophan
We know we’ve given you a lot of information all at once. But this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Keep checking back to her blog for more information on good sleep diets, good sleep habits, and good sleep in general.