4 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

In last week’s Healthy Steps blog, we mentioned that a good night’s sleep is an important key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. While keeping a sensible schedule and keeping stress levels down are both key factors in getting good rest, your nighttime eating habits are just as important. Below are four food items you should avoid before stretching out for bedtime.

This alkaloid is well-known and highly-praised for its ability to perk you up during the day, but caffeine lingers in your body far beyond the quick pick-me-up. In fact, the caffeine in your morning cup of coffee will stay with you for four to six hours. It’s a good idea to avoid anything caffeinated about six hours before bedtime. Caffeine isn’t just restricted to coffee and soda drinks, either. Dark chocolate, most teas and hot cocoa all contain caffeine. If a hot drink soothes you before bedtime, try a caffeine-free herbal tea.

Heavy Stuff
Foods that are high in fat (especially fried foods) take considerably longer for your body to digest. This drawn-out digestion process can cause abdominal discomfort that interferes with sleep. Breads, cheeses, processed meats and even some tomato products can be detrimental to your sleep. If you have to eat a late-night meal, be sure to choose something full of lean protein and fiber. The heavier the meal, the harder your body will be working to digest it. If a big meal is on the books for the night, make sure it’s at least four to five hours before bed.

While a few spoonfuls of ice cream or a little slice of cheesecake are common nighttime indulgences, eating sugary foods before bed can actually make it difficult to stay asleep. Eating sweets can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then fall rapidly as your body releases insulin to help bring those sugar levels under control. While most people will still fall asleep easily, those blood sugar fluctuations make it difficult to achieve restful sleep. If dessert is on the nightly menu, be sure to enjoy at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Spice…Not So Nice
A few dashes of your favorite red pepper hot sauce on your burrito or a spicy curry dish rife with red pepper will definitely set your taste buds to tingling. But enjoying spicy foods before sleepy time can be a recipe for a restless night. Ensuring you’re vertical (sitting upright or standing) is important to the process of digestion. For this reason, it’s important to avoid spicy foods for at least 3 hours before you go to sleep. Letting your body process food the way it’s designed to process them might save you from sleep-killing heartburn.

Happy sleeping, friends!