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8 Eating Tips for Better Sleep


8 Eating Tips for Better Sleep

What we eat, how much we eat and even when we eat all contribute to the quality of our sleep. Foods to be avoided prior to sleeping include overly sweet or fatty foods, which can cause indigestion and/or bloating; caffeine e.g. coffee, chocolate, cola drinks and even some medications, which can over-stimulate and therefore disrupt sleep; and alcohol, which although making you initially sleepy can disturb your sleep pattern later on in the night and cause severe sleep problems.

One very common eating-related sleep disorder is gastroesophageal reflux (also known as heartburn). This can be caused by eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime or eating spicy or greasy foods. Even reflux or a ‘gassy’ stomach can cause enough discomfort to keep many people awake.

Snoring and sleep apnoea worsened by excess weightSnoring or sleep apnoea are often worsened if you are carrying excess weight. This is because an obese or very overweight person often has an excess of fatty tissue in the throat area that can partially block the airways. In snoring, this fatty tissue vibrates as the sleeper breathes. So if you are carrying excess weight, you should aim to adjust eating and exercise habits through the day, so that you lose this weight to control snoring and sleep apnoea.

Pitfalls of overeating in the eveningMany people eat too little through the day and too much at night. For example, having a very busy day at work with little time for planned meals often leads to an excessive appetite at night. Also, in the evening most people have more time to eat so this is often where most of the kilojoules are consumed. Pitfalls can include excessive kilojoule intake, particularly from low nutrient, high sugar, high fat, high kilojoule snacks such as chocolate, biscuits, chips, ice cream and nuts.

People often snack on these types of foods at night when triggered by other activities like working, watching TV or seeing other people eating, or if they are provoked by a particular mood such as boredom or depression. Much of this eating is automatic. If eating is not an isolated activity, we do not fully enjoy the foods we eat and we may overeat because we are not fully aware of our eating.

Better sleep = better metabolismA good night’s rest allows us to recoup our energy levels so that we can maintain our activities with vigour the following day. If we have too little a sleep or a poor quality sleep, we may be tired the next day and therefore reduce our energy expenditure. This in turn could affect our weight if we are burning up less kilojoules yet maintaining our regular food intake, so having a good sleep can also assist you with controlling your weight.

Also, often people who eat too much at night wake up not requiring breakfast because they are not hungry. This then often results in an unhealthy eating pattern where very little is eaten in the morning leading to excessive amounts eaten at night.

Achieve a healthy dinner after a long day at the officeI find some of my patients who are tired through the day often don’t eat correctly as they haven’t got the energy to shop or prepare meals properly. One solution is to have a cooking marathon on the weekend, preparing in advance foods that can be easily frozen and then reheated. This way you can come home from work, tired, exhausted and with an empty fridge, and take something out of the freezer and zap it in the microwave.

Foods that you can pre-prepare and freeze include many soups, casseroles, bolognaise or spaghetti sauces, curries and stews. Pre-plan and work out beforehand what you plan to cook, write up your shopping list and then go shopping so that you are organised.

Pre-prepare and sleep easierThe Australian Healthy Cooking Guide (www.healthy-guide.com) assists people with planning their time and meals, so that they can enjoy these types of tasty menus. It includes many recipes that can be prepared in advance, including soups and casseroles. The Australian Healthy Shopping Guide (www.healthy-guide.com) also assists people as it lists the healthier options in supermarkets for many time saving meals and commercial products.

Planning your meals in advance, eating light at night, and steering clear of spicy, greasy and overly sugary or fatty foods as well as caffeine will play a major part in helping you sleep easier, not to mention happier knowing you have eaten healthier.
Recommendations for healthier evening eating

Don’t eat a heavy meal within three hours of going to bed.

Limit spicy and fatty foods e.g. creamy sauces and deep fried foods.

Limit use of butter and oil in cooking and on vegetables.

Keep meat serves small and combine them with some complex carbohydrates such as pasta, rice or potatoes. Fill up on plenty of low kilojoule, non-starchy vegetables including at least three of various colours including green and orange.

If you want dessert keep it light. Have something like fruit and low fat ice cream, custard or yoghurt or even a low fat, low sugar, wholemeal cake, muffin, pudding or dessert.

Make sure you eat regularly throughout the day and eat breakfast and lunch as well as one or two small snacks. This will ensure that your appetite is not uncontrollable at the end of the day and that you can eat a moderate size evening meal.

Limit stimulants including alcohol and coffee and other foods containing caffeine like chocolate, cocoa and soft drinks.

If you wish have supper or a late night snack keep it small e.g. a glass of warm milk, a cup of relaxing herbal tea, a piece of fruit, crackers and cheese, or fruit topped with yoghurt.

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