Are You Following a Good Sleep Diet? Here’s How You Start!

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.

Don’t Touch an Off-Label Prescription Sleeping Pill Without Reading This First!

We know that, for some of the people reading this right now, it may already be too late. You may already have the prescription bought and paid for and in your hand right now. You may have even started taking it. But we’re guessing that if you’re on the internet googling about off label sleep medications, there was a lot of information about them you didn’t know before you started asking questions.

First off, we want to congratulate you on being wise enough to know that you needed more info. Most people aren’t even aware that doctors can prescribe medications off-label – much less the associated dangers. The practice of prescribing prescription pills off-label is a highly controversial one. Some doctors still do it despite this controversy, either for profit or because they naively believe it is the best solution. But there are instances where taking a medication off-label can be extremely hazardous to your health. And there is certainly no exception when it comes to sleep medication. In fact, off-label prescription sleep aids may be the most dangerous of all.

How to Know If You’re Taking an Off-label Prescription Sleeping Pill

As with any medication your doctor prescribes you, you should ask for the name and what it is designed to treat or cure. If you’ve never heard of the medication before, don’t be afraid to ask questions! If your doctor gets defensive or hostile by your inquisitive nature, then it may be time to find a new doctor. But if they are understanding and patient with you, then you’ll know you’re getting advice and information you can trust. You should also ask your doctor whether the medication is off-label or not. If they confirm that it is off-label, be sure to ask them why they’re prescribing it that way and to what degree of certainty they believe it will work for you. As a patient, you are entitled to accurate responses to these important questions.

We have a short list of the most commonly prescribed off-label medications for sleep. If any of these medications are in your medicine cabinet right now, use with caution. Read every single word of fine print in the warning pamphlet, and be sure to talk to your pharmacist about your doctor’s decision. In some instances, your pharmacist may know more about the medication, potential side effects, and possible harmful interactions with other medications than your primary care doctor. Again, don’t be afraid to ask these questions. If you don’t get all the information you need, you could be risking your health.

Amitriptyline is one of the more popular off-label prescriptions doctors prescribe for sleep. But it was not designed to solve that problem. It was originally discovered to be helpful anxiety disorders, major depression, and bipolar disorder, among other mental health issues. It is one of the older generations of antidepressant medications. Some doctors believe it is also helpful for people diagnosed with ADHD. Although it is in frequently prescribed for this purpose, it is still considered an off-label script. Other uncommon, on-label reasons to prescribe amitriptyline include fibromyalgia, posturepedic neuralgia, and other indiscriminate nerve pain. Unfortunately, amitriptyline carries the following side effects with it:

  • Nightmares
  • More frequent nightmares
  • Insomnia  
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Lack of sexual desire
  • Impotence
  • Blood pressure drop when standing
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling confused
  • Gaining weight
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Mirtazapine is another popular off-label prescription sleep aid. It is the generic of the name brand Remeron, but may go by many other names. Like amitriptyline, mirtazapine is also an antidepressant. It is one of the other old school antidepressant medications which does not fit into a typical SSRI classification. Mirtazapine is a popular medication for anxiety disorders, nausea, and the cessation of uncontrolled vomiting. It can also be prescribed to help stimulate appetite in underweight people. Common side effects of mirtazapine include:

  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Rapid, extreme weight gain
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Spikes in your triglyceride and cholesterol levels
  • Dry mouth

Trazodone is another drug you should look out for if you have been prescribed an off-label sleep medication. Part of the reason doctors like to prescribe this medication off-label for insomnia to treat concurrent disorders like anxiety – which often keeps people awake at night. Many medical experts believe this is also a good medication for people whose depression is accompanied by substance abuse. Lastly, doctors and patients agree that this antidepressant is a much more affordable medication compared to similar drugs which are designed to treat the same symptoms.

One of the more disconcerting issues with trazodone is the dosing instructions doctors sometimes give patients depending on what the pillows used for. The vast majority of antidepressants start at a low dose and gradually titrate up in order to avoid severe side effects. The process is reversed if a patient has to go off the medication. But patients who use trazodone for sleep are told that they can take anywhere from one half of a pill two three pills per night for sleep. They’re also told they don’t have to take them every single night, and that quitting the medication cold turkey is perfectly safe. This contradiction is both confusing and worrisome, in addition to the pill’s known side effects:

  • Priapism, or an erection lasting for more than 4 hours
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Worsening depression or thoughts of suicide
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Orthostatic hypertension

Fix Your Sleepless Nights With Natural Cures Instead

Prescription medications, regardless of the name or their intended treatment, are expensive and difficult to get. They’re also dangerous more often than not. But we put our trust and faith in the medical professionals who prescribe them because the expense and the effort makes it feel like it’s worth it. This doesn’t always turn out to be the case (unfortunately).

Instead of trying the nuclear option first, how about experimenting with some natural sleep aids? These high-quality supplements are made with natural, pure, potent ingredients that grow straight out of the ground. They’ve been used for centuries take care of this problem – whereas prescription drugs have only been around for less than a century. There are no side effects to worry about – other than the positive side effect of getting more healthy, restorative sleep and waking up refreshed the next day. So why not try a natural, effective sleep aid tonight?