July is mental health month. One of the factors that affect mental health is poor quality sleep. Poor quality sleep badly affects overall physical health, and the functioning of your body systems including the immune system – the ability to fight off infection.
Struggling to fall asleep? Take a look at your diet, because what you eat affects how you sleep. There are foods called ‘wakers’ and there are those called ‘sleepers’. ‘Sleepers’ are foods that contain tryptophan, which helps your brain to be calm and relaxed. ‘Wakers’ are foods that keep your brain busy. If you brain is busy, chances are you will not sleep well.
What to eat to catch more good quality sleep
- Almonds Almonds contain tryptophan and magnesium, which promote both sleep and muscle relaxation. They also contain proteins that can help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping. Try having a handful of almonds as a bedtime snack.
- Dairy Yogurt, milk and cheese contain tryptophan, and calcium. Calcium is a sleep-inducing nutrient and is effective in stress reduction and stabilization of nerve fibers, including those in the brain. Try a glass of warm milk before bedtime.
- A protein snack Eating a protein snack such as egg, cheese, and nuts with a complex starch before bedtime keeps your blood sugar more stable when you are asleep. If you have a snack that is too high in simple carbohydrates (i.e. sugars), your blood sugar can go up and drop while you are sleeping, causing you to wake at 2 or 3 in the morning. Don’t take a bed time snack as an open invitation to pig out.
- Cereal A complex starch cereal, for example, one that is whole grain and also low in sugar increases the availability of a hormone that helps you sleep better.
- Bananas Bananas contain tryptophan, potassium and magnesium, which help to relax your muscles, helping you sleep better. Blend a banana with milk to make a shake.
What foods / drinks to avoid when you have trouble sleeping
- Tea Avoiding caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime is important, because caffeine can keep your brain awake. In addition to tea, caffeine is also found in some soft drinks, coffees and energy drinks. Some decaf drinks can help get you into sleeping mode. Chamomile tea is a very helpful and safe sleeping aid. If you often drink green tea before bedtime, make sure it is a decaf green tea.
- Sugar Too much sugar at bedtime does not allow your brain to calm down, therefore it does not promote good quality sleep.
- Alcohol Even though alcohol causes an immediate drowsiness, it disrupts the sleep cycle by shortening sleeping time, leading to bad quality sleep that won’t leave you rested.
- Fluids Cut most of your fluids by 8pm.Too much fluids can interrupt your sleep by making you get up constantly to go to the bathroom.
What else to avoid before bedtime
- Heavy meals, try a bigger meal at lunch and a lighter one at dinner. Wait between 1 and 2 hours after you finish eating before going to bed.
- Going to bed hungry, because the hunger will definitely wake you up at night.
- Some medications may contain caffeine so check your prescription.
- Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you wake up at night. Smoke contains nicotine which is a stimulant, just like caffeine.
- Minimize noise, light and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep.
- Develop a regular bed time, and go to bed at the same time each night.
The bottom line is, poor quality sleep reduces your productivity, increases your risk of causing accidents, and your overall mental health.