Sleep is one of our most important activities and without it we wouldn’t be able to function physically or mentally. When we don’t get enough sleep, we can be irritable, lack concentration and feel weak. Our busy lives mean that we often delay sleep and find it difficult to nod off when we actually do want to. What we eat and drink during the day can significantly affect our sleep, along with other lifestyle habits.
Cut down on caffeine
Drinking coffee, tea and soda, or eating chocolate should be stopped four to six hours before bedtime. We all presume that it is the caffeine in our coffee that wakes us up in the morning, but are not aware that caffeine is often hidden in other foods too. Check food labels to avoid consuming extra caffeine before bedtime.
- 1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed per day globally
- 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe for healthy adults – equal to four cups
- Caffeine affects us all differently, so four cups may not be suitable for everyone
Just like caffeine, nicotine, which is present in most types of tobacco, has stimulating effects. Smoking should be avoided at all times for optimal health, however if you do smoke please avoid it 45 minutes before bedtime to improve sleep.
Reduce intake of spicy, acidic and fatty foods
Eating foods that are very spicy, acidic or fatty can contribute to heartburn. When we lie down to go to sleep, heartburn is exacerbated as acid from the stomach leaks into the esophagus causing an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, which subsequently hinders sleep.
Avoid eating late at night
If you get hungry before bed, avoid having a heavy meal. Instead choose something light, like a small glass of milk and a low-fat non-sugary snack.
Although it affects everyone differently, some people find that doing vigorous exercise just before bed keeps them awake at night while their body continues to recover. However, doing daytime exercise, even late in the afternoon, is a great way to boost energy levels for the rest of the day and help you get a good night’s sleep. Exercise is also known to relieve stress, which can contribute to insomnia.
In addition to the things you eat and drink, the place where you sleep is an important contributor to sleep quality. See our The Perfect Sleeping Environment post to further improve your night’s rest.