3 Ways Diet and Exercise Affect Your Sleep
If there’s one thing we’d all like more of, it’s sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 7 out of 10 Americans say they experience frequent sleep problems. While we can’t always get as many hours to snooze as we’d like, studies show that changes to diet and exercise can improve the quality of our sleep. If you could do with some extra Zzz’s, this one’s for you.
1. Food for Thought
What we eat can influence whether we get a restless or restful night of sleep. Choosing sugary foods throughout the day can cause changes to your blood sugar, which can alter your sleep patterns. Spicy and acidic foods can also make sleeping more difficult because they cause heartburn, which worsens when you lie down to sleep. And according to a study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, a diet that contains less fiber and more saturated fat leads to lighter, less restorative sleep.
In-Shape Trainer Tip: Try to plan your last meal a few hours before bedtime to give your body time to digest your food. That being said, a growling stomach can be distracting while you’re trying to fall asleep. If you need a snack before you hit the hay, pick something that will be easy for your body to process and encourage quality sleep like bananas, almonds, oats, low-sugar cereal or yogurt.
2. Cheers to Better Sleep!
We probably don’t need to remind you to drink more water—staying hydrated is always a good idea. What you might not know is that the National Sleep Foundation reported that going to bed dehydrated can also lead to lower quality sleep. Keeping a glass of water by the bed will also prevent a trip to the kitchen if you get thirsty in the middle of the night.
Caffeine, our favorite morning helper, should be limited to the early parts of your day if you have trouble sleeping. According to the 2001 Sleep in America poll, 43% of Americans are "very likely" to use caffeinated beverages to combat daytime sleepiness. Unfortunately, caffeine can cause a cycle of restlessness: more caffeine means less sleep, which leads to feeling groggy during the day and reaching for that second or third cup of coffee.
It can also help to avoid sugary drinks like juice or soda near bedtime. For a relaxing pre-dream sipper, choose an herbal tea that promotes sleep, like lavender or chamomile. You can even use that cup of tea as part of a nightly routine. While you sip, jot down your to-do list for the next day, write down what you’re grateful for, or read a book (not your phone). Having a little time to wind down can make it much easier to drift off when you start counting sheep.
3. Work It Out
We have great news. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, cycling, etc.) can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep, especially when done regularly. Exercise may also reduce your risk of developing sleep disorders that worsen sleep quality, like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
People used to warn against working out too close to bedtime, but we now know that it varies from person to person. For some, a good sweat sesh helps them de-stress and feel ready to go to sleep. Listen to your body and see how well you sleep depending on what time you work out.
We hope these tips help you hit the sack, sleep like a baby and get some serious shuteye. And remember, if you regularly have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, talk to your doctor about how to get the rest you need.