We all know how important a good night of sleep is. But did you know what a lack of sleep can do to your body (other than cranky morning)? Lack of sleep can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, headaches, slows your body's metabolism and prevents your body from restoring itself!
Melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces when the sun goes down in the evening or in darkness/dimly lit settings, which helps induce sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in most protein-rich foods like turkey, chicken, meat, fish, eggs, yogurt, milk, and cheese. Our body can use tryptophan as a building block for other important molecules in our body like serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can affect the brain and induce sleep, and melatonin which we already know plays a huge role in regulating our sleep-wake cycles. Including foods that naturally are high in melatonin and tryptophan can give your body a boost to get a better night's sleep.
Top Foods for Sleep:
Dairy Products: including milk, yogurt, or cheese are rich in tryptophan, which is needed to build serotonin and melatonin
Turkey (or other meats and poultry): rich in the amino acid tryptophan
Cherries: source of melatonin, whether in its fruit form or as cherry juice
Walnuts: source of melatonin and tryptophan, a handful before bedtime can help put you to sleep
Bananas: high in potassium and magnesium, which helps relax your muscles and signals your body to rest
Chamomile Tea: the classic herbal tea, while not rich in hormones or amino acids, can help reduce stress and anxiety, big enemies of sleep, and can help relax your body to get into sleep mode
In addition to adding melatonin and tryptophan rich foods, there are external factors that can help set the stage and environment for a good night's sleep.
Get Chilly: set your your bedroom temperature 60 to 68 F degrees, to help lower your body temperature and initiate sleep
Set the Mood: an hour before bedtime, turn down the lights (including electronics, televisions, smartphones, tablets) which signals your body into sleep mode, also impacting your circadian rhythm and promoting regular sleep habits
Moderate Your Caffeine: while you'll get that caffeine boost within 30-60 minutes drinking that cup of tea or coffee, it can actually take your body up to 6-10 hours fully metabolize! Hold off on that mid afternoon caffeine fix after 2 pm. Remember caffeine is also in energy drinks, colas, and sodas.
Watch That Night Cap: alcohol before bedtime can actually disrupt your natural sleep cycle, leading to poor sleep quality and waking up before feeling fully rested
Time the Sweat Fest: regular exercise and physical activity can improve sleep quality and reset your circadian rhythm--if timed right. Usually exercising too close to bedtime may overstimulate your body, in fact your body's temperature stays elevated up to 4 hours after exercising, and as we know trying to lower your body temperature helps start the sleep process. *Though for some people it may have the opposite effect, and squeezing in a hard workout can just lead to exhaustion and sleep