Sleep is one of the most important needs for our health. For many of us, what we eat and our lifestyle habits are unintentionally hindering our quality of sleep. Thankfully there are a few steps we can take to encourage much-needed ZZZs.
Kick the alcohol
Alcohol is a sleep bandit. For many people it relaxes the body and helps them unwind and feel sleepy. Unfortunately these sedative effects do not induce restorative sleep. The slumber that follows after a nightcap is typically disrupted and poor quality. You’re also likely to feel dehydrated with an accompanying headache in the morning. If you can’t skip the alcohol all together, alternate each drink with a glass of water and drink a big glass of water before bed to help rehydrate before lights out.
Keep caffeine in check
Caffeine in the afternoon is a big no-no for those who have trouble drifting off. While caffeine can increase your feelings of alertness as your get your through your day, for some it can make it more difficult to get to sleep at night.
Many people get their daily caffeine intake from their morning latte, but caffeine is lurking in many products such as chocolate and soft drinks, so check food labels. Even if you stick to only one coffee in the morning, caffeine’s effects can last for up to 10-12 hours post sip. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, limit the amount of caffeinated items you have each day, and try to exclude them completely after lunch time.
How late you eat your dinner may also impact your ability to fall asleep. When we eat a large dinner, particularly when gobbled down quickly, it can lead us to feel uncomfortably full before bed. Heavy, rich meals place a big demand on our digestive system and as a result, your ability to fall asleep easily may be impacted. Research has shown that those who eat four hours before bed fall asleep much more quickly than those who eat an hour before bed. Try keeping your dinner portions in check and consume your evening meal at least two hours before bed to encourage a good night’s shut eye.
Sleep troubles have been associated with reduced intakes of certain vitamins and minerals including vitamin B, calcium, iron and magnesium. The best way to obtain your daily vitamins and minerals is to eat a healthy and varied diet abundant with fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned you may have a deficiency, have your levels tested by your GP and discuss a good quality supplement to complement your balanced diet.
Exercising near bedtime
Although exercising during the day can do wonders for a good quality slumber, it’s best to avoid rigorous exercise three hours before bedtime. This will provide enough time for your body to drop in temperature and return to a state of calm in preparation for a restful sleep.