I’m sure we’ve all said it a hundred times: “I’m so tired, why am I always so tired?”. There are lots of reasons that we can feel tired (poor sleep quality, lack of a sleep routine, stress, etc.), but one of the under-examined causes can be the foods you’re eating (or not eating).
Eating a diet that doesn’t support good sleep can be a vicious cycle, as not getting enough sleep often leads to poor food choices and cravings. It’s fine to snack, but sometimes those sleepless nights have us reaching for foods that are fast and easy, as opposed to the ones that fuel our bodies for performance.
Let’s take a look at how your food choices might help you have a good night’s sleep.
Dietary Choices Regulate Blood Sugar
When we eat processed carbs, like breads, pastas, candies, and so on, our blood sugar spikes, causing a temporary energy rush. But those rushes often lead to a crash later in the day. Eating a balanced diet of whole foods helps to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Also, some studies link diabetes (which affects blood sugar levels) to chronic fatigue, though the research concludes that it’s not just blood sugar alone that’s to blame.
Food = Energy
Without getting too science-y about it – your body produces ATP (adenosine triphosphate) by using oxygen to convert the energy from your food into energy your cells can use. If you are not eating enough, or not eating foods with useful energy, it’s likely that you’ll feel more tired throughout your day. This is why so many nutritional plans have you eating in regular 2-4 hour intervals – it helps to keep your energy level consistent and provides your body with the fuel it needs to create energy. If you’re not sure about how much you should be eating, there are tons of helpful apps (like myfitnesspal) that can help you track it.
Water = Energy
Not surprisingly, our bodies need water for a number of functions, including energy production. A study showed that even slight dehydration can have a negative effect on your mood and energy level, so make sure that you’re staying hydrated!
Take Your Vitamins!
Sometimes tiredness can come from a lack of certain vitamins in your diet, including Vitamin D and iron. Foods that can help you boost vitamin D include fatty fish (like tuna, salmon and mackerel), cheese, eggs and some fortified dairy). Foods high in iron include animal proteins (including eggs), as well as beans and lentils, cashews, broccoli and dark, leafy greens like spinach.
How to Help Yourself Sleep Better
Beyond what you eat, it’s important to have a set sleep schedule. Having a consistent routine, a set time, and a relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom makes a world of difference. Aim to minimize distractions and screen time in the hour before bed. Don’t eat sugar or caffeine later in the evening as well.
Sometimes a caffeine-free herbal tea with a natural sedative, like chamomile or Valerian root can be a good addition to your pre-bed ritual.
When you wake up, that cup of coffee or tea might give you an energy boost, but it won’t provide all of the nutrients that you need to start your day. Make sure your first meal contains protein, fat and carbs to give you the energy you need to get going. Why not try a green smoothie?
Green Citrus Smoothie
Ingredients: 1 C coconut water, 1 C coconut milk, 2 C spinach, 1 banana, 1 orange, 1/4 avocado, lemon juice, 2 pitted dates, vanilla protein powder (optional)
Instructions: Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy on its own or over ice.
Finally, exercise is a great mood-booster and can help combat fatigue (provided the body has adequate fuel and no underlying conditions causing the tiredness). So get moving during the day, and sleep better at night!