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How to Eat Your Way to Better Sleep

These days in American culture, sleeping well on a regular basis has become something of a fantastic myth on par with finding the Fountain of Youth and capturing Bigfoot. While most people claim they would love to get more sleep, figuring out how to do so seems nearly impossible. Whether it’s your monster commute or the work emails that never let up, the demands of contemporary life keep many of us occupied well into the night.

How to Eat Your Way to Better Sleep

There are many things people do to try and rest well. They utilize white noise apps on their smartphones. They purchase beds with comfort technology designed to aid sleep. They take sleep aids and visit sleep centers, and while all of these can help out it’s usually not enough.

Since an overhaul of your life isn’t likely, getting better sleep must enter the picture via another route, such as: What if getting a better night’s rest was as close at hand as the foods you eat? The way diet and nutrition affect sleep is rarely considered. Here are a handful of ways you can eat your way to a better night’s sleep.

1. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Eating a diet that lends itself to better sleep is just as much about what you don’t ingest as what you do. Almost everyone indulges in alcohol and caffeine in America — after-work cocktails on Friday do seem well-deserved, and where would any of us be without our trusty cup of coffee every morning? But they can both counteract any measures you’re taking to get better sleep.

Caffeine is a stimulant with a half-life of roughly seven hours, which means that you two o’clock cappuccino will still have half of its caffeine in your system at 9 p.m. Alcohol, although it’s a depressant that can initially seem to help you fall asleep, is metabolized in the body in such a way that it often causes imbibers to wake up throughout the night. If you’re serious about getting a sleep-healthier diet, skip the caffeine and alcohol entirely, and drink herbal teas and water instead.

2. Eat Whole, Fresh Foods

Whole, fresh foods — ideally from a local source — are the perfect fuel to keep your body in optimum health. Because they’re easier for your body to digest and extract nutrients from, whole, fresh foods keep your body functioning at its most efficient. This makes everything from digestion to sleep easier.

Eat salads made from green, leafy kale, chard, spinach, and romaine. Asparagus spears, celery, and carrots are a great snack when dipped in hummus. Eat your fill of fresh fruits and berries, whether you put them on your granola in the morning, or put them in smoothies for a perfect quick lunch. However you do it, make sure the bulk of your diet starts out whole and fresh.

3. Eat Foods High in B Vitamins

B vitamins — in particular, vitamins B3 and B6 — work a bit of magic in the body when it comes to seeking better sleep. From aiding in the production of serotonin, a chemical that helps induce sleep, to extending your REM cycle, foods high in B vitamins should be a priority on every plate of food you sit down to.

Foods high in B vitamins include poultry such as chicken or turkey, fish, peanuts, bananas, chickpeas, beets, and pork.

4. Eat Regularly Each Day

It takes energy to sleep, and each morning when you wake, that energy needs to be replenished. Be sure to eat a protein- and carbohydrate-rich breakfast, and let that meal set the stage for the rest of your day. Eat a small, nutrient- and vitamin-rich meal every few hours in order to help your body’s energy resources stay steady.

You’ll think better, feel more energized, and when the time for sleep comes, your well-nourished and balanced body will be ready for it.

5. Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods tend to be high in sodium, which can lead to plenty of health concerns and make sleep more difficult to come by. Too much sodium will raise your blood pressure and lead to dehydration, resulting in more fitful sleep.

Pay attention to labels to keep your sodium intake low, and when possible, cook from scratch so that you can more easily control the amount of salt in your food.

Eating your way to a better night’s sleep isn’t a pipe dream. Make sure your diet is filled with fresh, whole foods, avoid processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol, and you can plan plenty of meals that will make hitting the hay productive and restful.

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