A night of peaceful, deep, and quality sleep is a blessing that only the sleep deprived and insomniacs can truly appreciate. To have not just one, but plenty of nights filled with restful sleep, check out the healthy sleeping tips below! 

You may even be surprised to know in addition to developing daily pro-sleep habits, what you eat and drink can play a role in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep! 

Try adding a variety of foods and drinks high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B6, tryptophan, and melatonin to your dinner and late evening choices – especially if you find yourself tossing and turning in bed at night!

Fortunately, there is no single way to improve your sleep quality and the length of time you sleep! There are several different steps you can take to get the refreshing sleep your body needs.

A good night’s sleep is crafted by your habits during the day and pre-bedtime routine.

1. Wake up around the same time every morning – even on your days off. It’s difficult to create a healthy sleep schedule if your wake times are not consistent and the same goes for your bedtime!

2. Get a good dose of natural light as early as possible and throughout your day! Sunlight and darkness help regulate your circadian rhythm, which is your internal clock that tells you when to wake up and go to sleep. If exposure to natural light is difficult to get, talk with your doctor about light therapy to help reset your clock.

3. Exercise daily! Johns Hopkins mentions getting in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every day increases your deep sleep time at night. Deep sleep helps your mind and body recover from the day and promotes that refreshing feeling upon waking up. Whether you are a brisk walker, swimmer, or yard work type of gal, find a groove that works for you! If you are not currently active, start slow and trial activities to find something you enjoy.

4. Don’t let caffeine run your day – be mindful of your intake and avoid it starting in the early afternoon. If you find yourself nodding off, find non-caffeinated ways to wake up!

  • Get some fresh air, splash cold water on your face, exercise, stretch, listen to energizing music, start a conversation with someone, brush your teeth, eat a healthy snack, or drink a hot or cold beverage (whichever wakes you up!) – search for strategies that work for you and your schedule at the time.

* Relying on caffeine later in the day can hinder your ability to fall asleep at night, even if you don’t “feel” the caffeine anymore.

5. To nap or not to nap is a great question! Napping too late in the day or for too long can throw off your ability to fall asleep when you want to at night. The Sleep Foundation recommends napping in the early afternoon after lunch and keeping it to 20 minutes.

6. Don’t eat a big dinner right before bedtime. It may be more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when your body is still trying to digest a large meal, especially if it was spicy or high in fat. If you need to eat right before bedtime, keep it as light and healthy as possible and include “sleep-inducing” food and beverage options – which you’ll find below! 

7. Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Although it may seem like a great nightcap, how your body metabolizes the alcohol throughout the night can negatively affect your sleep cycles, the length of time you stay asleep, and your overall sleep quality. 

8. Cultivate a pleasant sleeping environment. 

  • A high quality mattress and pillow that provide support where you need it reduces aches and pains and promotes good sleep.
  • Trial sleeping temperatures. Some say 65 degrees F is the perfect sleeping temperature, but others may find that too chilly!
  • Eliminate noise – try ear plugs or a sound machine to block out excessive noise.
  • Introduce a calming aroma like lavender using an essential oil diffuser! doTERRA is a great company that not only offers pure oils, but also provides jobs to locals and contributes to important causes. Research supports the use of lavender to promote sleep as well as many others to minimally provide a relaxing environment to fall asleep. 

9. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex! If your bed is a hangout place during the day for various activities, that unconsciously may cause problems falling asleep or staying asleep at night. 

10. Put your blue lights down 2 hours before bedtime. Sunshine, fluorescent bulbs, LED lights, and even the classic incandescent lighting have 1 thing in common – they all produce blue light – the strongest wavelength that suppresses melatonin production! Blue light is great during the day to boost our mood and keep us alert, but definitely doesn’t help us sleep at night. 

  • Avoid bright lights (in your home, stores) and screen time (phone, TV, computer, etc.) before bed to promote melatonin production. If 2 hours is a stretch for you, opt for wearing blue light-blocking glasses or installing applications on your electronics to filter out blue light at night. 
  • Using dim red light as your night light source is also much less likely to suppress melatonin production compared to all other light sources.

11. Spend 20-30 minutes winding down right before hopping into bed. Relax your mind and body through calming music, deep breathing, meditation, slow Tai Chi, progressive muscle relaxation, or other techniques that will help you ease into sleep.

12. Listen to your body as much as your environment allows. Take advantage of when you feel sleepy at night and awake in the morning to stay in tune with your circadian rhythm. 

13. Get out of bed after ~20 minutes if you can’t fall asleep. Drink a sleep-inducing beverage and try another relaxing technique in dim light or the dark to get drowsy enough to fall asleep.

14. Don’t give up on trying to get the sleep you need! Try a sleep diary (there are different versions) to help you identify potential barriers to falling asleep or getting quality sleep. Talk with your doctor about seeing a sleep therapist if your issues persist – there are several non-medicinal treatments available!

In addition to crafting daily pro-sleep habits, a variety of foods and beverages may provide the extra nudge you could use at night!

The variety of dinner options/additions below are great choices that contain varying amounts of tryptophan, Vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, and calcium to help induce sleep later on in the evening.

  • Chicken, turkey, seafood (salmon, halibut, tuna, cod, sardines, shrimp)
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains (oats, wheat, barley, rice) 
  • Legumes (black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, split peas, chickpeas)
  • Vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, turnip greens) 

Want to reach for a late evening snack of beverage before bed? These options are sure to bring on a few yawns!

Evening Go-To Beverages                                                                                                                                            

    1. Chamomile:
      This ancient herb is known for its mild sedative effects and may hold promise for other illnesses discussed in this review! Before you go to bed, take a moment to sip a warm cup of chamomile herbal tea to relax, unwind, and de-stress. 
    2. Tart cherry juice:
      This juice contains high levels of melatonin and may help you sleep longer! A study from the American Journal of Therapeutics found insomniacs who drank tart cherry juice increased their sleep time by over 80 minutes! 
    3. Milk:  Milk and dairy products are rich in calcium and tryptophan, which are both important in the production of serotonin and melatonin to feel at peace and ease into sleep.

**Something to note – the source of your milk and dairy products truly matter! Not all dairy is created equal, which is why buying organic is your best option. No antibiotics, no synthetic growth hormones, and no use of controversial pesticides is what you’re guaranteed when you choose organic. Organic dairy products offer a better nutritional profile higher in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants compared to non-organic.

Evening Go-To Snacks

1. Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Yogurt: Maybe you can’t tolerate milk, but cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt contain less lactose and are still great dairy options to help with sleep!

2. Fruit:

  • Bananas: this fruit is a powerhouse of magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin B6. Potassium has been known to help you stay asleep throughout the night. If you are feeling wide awake late into the night, eat a banana or try a banana smoothie with almond butter from EatingWell!
  • Plantains, Pineapple, Kiwi, Plums: All of these fruits contain high levels of tryptophan to make serotonin! Smaller            amounts can also be found in avocados, cantaloupe, grapefruit, and dates.

3. Whole Grains are not just reserved for dinner – they serve as a great evening snack as well as they contain both tryptophan and melatonin! Choose whole grain crackers or bread with a nut butter or combine a whole grain option with a fruit or dairy option to satisfy your tummy and get you off to sleep.

4. Nuts & Seeds:

  • Pistachios are not only tasty, but they are a jackpot for sleep. They are jam-packed with magnesium, protein, and Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is necessary for adequate serotonin and melatonin production. Consuming a healthy amount of pistachios before going to bed could knock you out like nothing else!
  • The National Sleep Foundation recommends almonds and walnuts – they actually contain some melatonin! Nuts in general also have varying amounts of magnesium and tryptophan that are needed to feel relaxed and sleepy. Eating a mixture of walnuts and almonds as a snack before bed may give you the bump to sleep you’re looking for!
  • Pumpkin seeds are especially rich in magnesium and tryptophan. If you’re deficient in magnesium, it could be affecting your sleep! A study from the Journal of Research discusses the role of magnesium in several aspects of sleep and found it to significantly improve insomnia! 

The search for the elusive “good night’s sleep” can be frustrating and exhausting, but before reaching for an over-the-counter sleep aid, try some natural remedies to get your body on the right path to sound sleep! 

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Yours in health and wellness,

                                                                          =

Lindsay Pennington

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