With such an important role in both our physical and mental health, getting a good night’s rest is essential for our overall well-being. Take a closer look at your habits, and how you can get in more sleep.
BY: MASCHA DAVIS, MPH, RDN
We all know that sleep is essential for health, and influences both our physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can disrupt our hormonal balance and induce overeating behaviors, not to mention the fact that being constantly tired is just no fun.
Getting enough sleep is not always easy, and sometimes it is just impossible to get your 7 to 8 hours in! But as long as missed sleep doesn’t become a habit, it is OK to have one shorter night every now and then. Fortunately, there are many areas that you can focus on to help your body get the best quality rest. Here are some for key things to consider:
Eating nutrient-dense foods on a regular basis will help ensure you get good Z’s. Here are some of the top ones for a better night’s sleep:
- Selenium is an essential nutrient for sleep health, as well as for good immunity. It can be found it in seafood and whole grains (sardines are an excellent source!).
- Vitamin C is not only important for sleep but can also protect your heart. There is plenty of it in fresh fruits and vegetables – aim for at least 7 servings each day.
- Calcium is needed for good sleep because it helps activate the enzyme needed to convert tryptophan to melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone). So go ahead and drink your glass of warm milk (or almond milk) before bed.
- Vitamin D can improve sleep efficiency. Spending time in the sun as well as eating whole eggs, fatty fish and fortified foods are ways to get this vitamin. A supplement is often recommended if your lab results show you are low.
- Lycopene, an antioxidant found mainly in tomatoes, helps you fall asleep faster.
- Potassium is needed for cells to function normally. It also helps you sleep through the night. Potassium can be found in many fruits and veggies, like bananas or avocados. Bananas also increase levels of serotonin, which is needed to produce the sleep hormone melatonin!
- Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that also helps you produce melatonin. This amino acid can be found in turkey, eggs, or spinach.
- Water! Water is the most important nutrient in the human body, yet it is one of the most overlooked nutrients. Staying hydrated makes a huge difference in the quality of sleep.
2. EATING ENOUGH
This might surprise you, but some research suggests that a lack of variety and restrictive diets may negatively affect the quality and duration of sleep. Loading up on nutrient dense foods and eating enough to meet your body’s needs will help you sleep through the night.
3. LIGHTS OUT
This might not have much to do with food. However, if you have problems falling asleep at night, it is essential to stay away from artificial light at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Melatonin production is induced by darkness, so if you keep on looking at a bright screen, you may never feel fully tired.
Exercise can increase the quality of sleep, but timing is important when it comes to physical activity. Try to avoid exercising three hours before hitting the hay. Getting your heart rate up so close to bedtime could make it harder to fall asleep and might leave you feeling restless.
If you feel like you have tried everything and still can’t sleep, consider seeing a specialist about it to help you restore your ability to rest at night.
Good sleep can definitely change your life, and will keep you healthy for years to come.
Adapted from the original article.
Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN is a nationally-recognized media spokesperson and private practice dietitian based in Los Angeles, who shares her love of health and wellness through a unique global perspective. From world-class U.S. medical centers to rural villages in Africa, Mascha has dedicated herself to traveling the world, spreading her love of healthy living through both her humanitarian work and private practice. Learn more at Nomadista Nutrition.