Nutrition Matters – March 2019

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March is National Sleep Awareness Month. During this month most of the country will move the clocks forward for daylight savings time, an event that can often disrupt sleep and impact our work and school days. At times like this, it’s important for us to think about how good sleep or the lack of it can have an effect on our lives. A lot of times we do not think about how we can improve our sleep through our diets. In fact, what we eat has more of an effect on how we sleep than we may realize. Following these four simple food-related strategies can help us hit the sack better each night and feel more refreshed every morning.

Healthy eating leads to healthy sleeping. A diet low in fiber and high in saturated fats could take a toll on your shuteye by decreasing the amount of deep, slow-wave sleep that you get during the night. Meanwhile, eating too much sugar could result in more midnight wake ups. A healthy balanced diet that’s high in fiber and low in added sugars could help you to drift off faster, and log as many as two extra hours of sleep a week.

Diet-induced heartburn can keep you up at night. Anyone who has suffered from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) knows just how miserable it can be to go to bed with heartburn. In fact, people with nighttime heartburn are more likely to have sleep problems and disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and daytime sleepiness. Luckily the right diet can make a difference. Steer clear of large fried or high-fat meals, spicy foods, alcohol and sodas, especially close to bedtime. Your sleep and your waistline will thank you.

The best diet for sleep is also good for your total health. For your best night’s sleep, strive to eat a balanced diet that emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins, like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. B vitamins may help to regulate melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycles.

Losing weight can lead to better sleep. Eating well is the first step to losing weight, and it can pay dividends when it comes to sleep. A reduction in body fat, especially around your midsection makes you less likely to struggle with sleep problems like sleep apnea, restlessness or insomnia, and less likely to fight sleepiness during the day.

For additional foods, health and nutrition information contact Shelina Bonner, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Greene County Center at (252) 747-5831.