Your daytime routine can impact your ability to sleep well. Making good choices during the day can have a huge benefit of getting to sleep easily and staying asleep longer. Daytime activities such as eating, exercise, and stress management play a role in overall health as well as getting good sleep.
Experts say that eating the right foods can help a person be lulled into sleep without so much hustle. If one wants to get better sleep, paying attention to what we eat will go a long way to sleep better. In addition, it’s important to avoid eating foods that may upset our stomachs or contain ingredients that stimulate the nerves and the senses such as those with caffeine content.
To help the body relax, enough physical activities, such as walking, elliptical, dancing, or weightlifting should also be included in your daytime routine. Exercise does a couple of things. Moving your body on a regular basis uses energy during the day so you can be tired at night. Daily exercise also helps with stress and anxiety. And when you take a walk outside, sunshine during the day (especially morning sun) also helps you sleep at night (balances your circadian rhythm). More on that shortly.
How Foods Affect Your Sleep
Your diet matters and impacts your ability to fall asleep and maintain sleep at night. By eating a healthy diet, avoiding processed foods, sugar, fat, and preservatives, you may find that you can stop the cycle of insomnia and improve your overall health.
Consider these guidelines for a healthy sleep diet:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eat lean protein and limit red meat.
- Avoid processed foods, sugar, and fast food.
- Avoid spicy, fatty and heavy foods.
- If you need a snack before bed, make it low in fat and sugar.
- Eat your last meal four or more hours before bedtime.
- Try not to overeat at your nighttime meal.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. A well hydrated body won’t wake up in the night because of dehydration.
Watch yourself for food allergies that might be subtly causing you sleep disturbances. Common food allergies that might affect your sleep patterns are wheat, dairy products, corn and chocolate.
A well-balanced, wholesome diet will help you be a healthier person overall. General health is a huge factor in your ability to fall asleep naturally. If your daily intake of food is healthy, your body and mind will be healthy and well-nourished, helping you sleep deeply without waking in the night.
Stay Away from Internal Stimulants
While there are many external stimulates in your environment, there are also stimulants that affect your body from the inside. Impacting the way you feel, think, and relax, these products contain caffeine, sugar, and chemicals. While you don’t need to completely remove these items from your diet, you do need to pay attention and be sure not to ingest them after dinnertime to avoid difficulty falling asleep.
- Caffeinated beverages. Caffeine wakes up your body and mind by raising your heart rate. Since it has this effect, it is considered a stimulant. Coffee, colas, teas, and chocolate beverages contain caffeine. Have your last caffeinated beverage at least 3-4 hours prior to bedtime to avoid having difficulty sleeping.
- Chocolate. Chocolate has caffeine and sugar, both of which are stimulants that will keep you from having a restful night’s sleep. Do not have chocolate for 2-3 hours prior to bedtime.
- Alcohol. While alcoholic beverages might make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep, the sleep is typically not restful. For example, you might find yourself waking up in the middle of the night feeling dehydrated, then have trouble falling back to sleep. If you have sleep problems, alcohol really isn’t your friend.
- Smoking. Tobacco contains nicotine which is a stimulant. Your body’s nicotine dependency can cause your body to wake when the level of nicotine in your system becomes low. Try not to smoke in the hours before bedtime. Better yet, quit for good to improve your sleep and your overall health.
The Benefits of Sunlight to Help You Sleep
It may surprise you that getting morning sun can help you sleep at night. So go outside and soak up some sunshine, preferably within two hours of waking up. Morning sunlight boosts your daytime energy and can contribute to regular, more restful sleep. Here’s why, “every living thing responds to the greater rhythm of night and day, darkness and sunlight, called circadian rhythms. Sunlight regulates circadian rhythms, our sleeping and waking cycles, and a host of hormones involved in our overall wellbeing.” For more information about the circadian system you can visit www.sleepfoundatoin.org.
Being active during the day is an important factor in how well you sleep at night. If you are physically active during the day, your body will be able to relax and fall asleep easier. Exercise helps your body deal with daily stress and anxiety and it has a positive impact on the chemicals in your brain. How much you exercise is linked to your physical and emotional health. Regular exercise will help you fall asleep and maintain a sleep state because your sleep cycles become more consistent and the transition between them becomes more seamless. Try to work physical activities into your life daily to help with sleep.
There is some controversy around when the perfect time is to be physically active. Some studies say morning activity is best while other studies say later in the afternoon or evening is best. Sometimes if you exercise too late it ramps up your body making it difficult to fall asleep. You decide what time works best for you.
The most important thing is to be physically active for at least 20-30 minutes a day, 3-4 times per week. Aerobic activities usually work best to remedy insomnia, and activities can range from an easy walk to a rigorous run. By making your heart rate go up, improving your lung capacity, and adding oxygen into your blood, your body will be in better health and you’ll be on your way to naturally enhancing your sleep.
In addition to aerobic exercise, there are other types of physical activity you can participate in that will benefit sleep. Consider yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong. Yoga affects the brain and core muscles and improves blood circulation. Using yogic breathing techniques will help you relax and live with less stress. Tai Chi incorporates breathing with body movements in a slow-moving style that is perfect for individuals with joint pain or other issues that keep you from high-impact exercise. Qigong is similar to Tai Chi as well as meditation. It uses the breath to move energy through your body.
If you are having a difficult time falling asleep or stying asleep consider your diet and the amount of exercise you get in each day. Sometimes by making a few easy changes you can get back to a good night's sleep quickly. If you want more information, I invite you to consider my new self-study program, Get Good Sleep at www.GetGoodSleep.com.