Being healthy is more than just having a disease-free body. It also includes feeling rested and energized and enjoying a state of well-being. The center of this, is quality sleep.
Tossing and turning. Long, sleepless nights. They're draining, frustrating, and, well, exhausting—physically and mentally. Sometimes these problems can be triggers by life events or stress. Regardless, minor lifestyle and deity tweaks can make a radical difference. "The majority of people with day-to-day insomnia could be sleeping like puppies if they made just a few changes," says Jacob Teitelbaum, medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, which are located nationwide, and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic. "And if you know how to eat right? You're going to be way ahead of the game."
Replenish and Restore
Many people understand that there is a connection between fruits and vegetables and their ability to positively impact how the mind and body function. For example, the advantages of eating vitamin-rich spinach and antioxidant-filled blueberries have been widely acclaimed and accepted. But there is also hundreds of herbs and plants that may help replenish the mind and body and restore balance in multitude of ways.
The Sunny Side
Protein: High-protein foods promote sleep, and also fight acid reflux, Teitelbaum says. That's important, since heartburn often flares up at night, interrupting your Zzzz’s. Smart picks for a pre-bedtime snack: two slices of lean meat or cheese, a hardboiled egg, or some cottage cheese mixed with fresh fruit.
Almonds: They're full of protein and also provide a solid dose of magnesium, which promotes sleep, muscle relaxation, and bowel function. Chow down on a handful before bed, or spread some almond butter on toast.
Milk: Sipping on a warm glass isn’t just an old fib. Donald Hensrud, chair of the division of preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota adds, “It's full of tryptophan, so it will have a sedative effect. Plus, it's a good source of calcium, which helps regulate the production of melatonin.” So if you can't fall asleep or if you're woken up in the middle of the night, have some milk.
Cherries: They're one of the only natural sources of melatonin, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Botany in 2011. Have a handful an hour before bedtime; if they aren't in season, a good substitute is cherry juice or the dried variety.
Tea: Not just any, but decaf. Herbal and mild flavors are soothing, Green tea in particular contains theanine, which helps promote sleep.
Oatmeal: A single bowl provides plenty of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and potassium—all sleep-promoting nutrients. Go light on the sweeteners though, as too much sugar could sabotage shut-eye.
While loading up on sleep-promoting foods is important, so is steering clear of those that'll have the opposite effect:
High-fat meals: Initially, that greasy burger and fries will make you feel tired by cutting off some of the oxygen headed to your brain. However, research suggests people who have heavy, fatty meals in the evening clock fewer hours of total quality sleep than those who don't. Be particularly cautious if you suffer from acid reflux. These high fat and high calorie meals can worsen indigestion and heartburn. If a heavy meal is on the menu, make sure it's at least three hours before bedtime.
Caffeine: Go easy on caffeine, especially if it’s in the late afternoon. It's often the culprit lurking behind troublesome sleep. It’s my personal rule to avoid caffeine after 3:00 pm. Watch out for less-obvious sources, like chocolate, gum, and certain medications. Still, not everyone finds it problematic. "We metabolize caffeine differently—there's a genetic basis," Hensrud says. "If I have caffeine even in late afternoon, I'll be up all night, while my wife can have a cup of coffee and go right to bed."
Spicy meals: Especially for those facing acid reflux, spicy foods will lead to a long night of tossing and turning. Avoid laying down after a spicy meal for at least two hours.
Newell, S. (2014, August). Make the most of each day- and night. U.S. Airways,126-128
Walker, R., Battistelli, A., Moscatello, S., Chen, Z., Leegood, R., Famiani, F. (2011). Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase in cherry (Prunus avium L.) fruit during development. J. Exp. Bot. 137 (4): 215-220. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err189