How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep, According to a Nutritionist
Raise your hand if you hate tossing and turning every damn night. *Raises hand* In an attempt to nip bedtime struggles in the bud once and for all, we checked in with nutritionist Samantha Cassetty, RD, the chief nutrition officer for magnesium brand OMG! Nutrition, for her best food tips for optimizing our sleep.
1. Reconsider That 4 p.m. Coffee
It’s tempting to hit up the espresso machine when the afternoon slump hits, but Cassetty advises against relying on energizers like this as a replacement for good sleep—especially in the afternoon. “If you find that you’re constantly relying on an afternoon caffeine fix, a better move is to skip it and focus on sleeping properly instead,” she says. “To help you get over the afternoon slump, try going outside for a few minutes or even looking outside a window. Studies [like this one in the Journal of Environmental Psychology] show that getting some fresh air can combat the mental fatigue you feel when you sit in front of a computer all day.”
2. Eat More Fiber and Magnesium
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it—well—once. As we’ve pointed out in the past, most Americans aren’t hitting their daily fiber targets. That could impact everything from your digestive system to, yes, sleep. “In a Columbia University study that looked at diet and sleep patterns, researchers found that a low-fiber diet was linked to poorer sleep quality, and that a higher fiber diet was related to better sleep,” Cassetty told us. She suggests aiming for 25 grams of fiber per day, which you can reach by eating foods including “fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains—all the plants.” Magnesium also aids in improving sleep health, and Cassetty says most of us aren’t getting enough of that one either. To up your intake, eat foods like spinach, almonds and chickpeas, or take a magnesium supplement.
3. Eat Less Saturated Fat and Added Sugar
That same Columbia study also touched on the impact saturated fat and sugar can have on sleep. Spoiler alert: It’s not great. “The study found that saturated fat—the type found in red meat and whole milk dairy products—as well as a higher intake of sugar was linked to less refreshing sleep,” Cassetty told us. It might be a bummer to cut back on some of that admittedly delicious food, but sleep-wise, it’s totally worth it.
4. Watch What You Eat Before Bed
Chowing down too close to bedtime can mess with your sleep, friends. “Lying down close to eating can cause acid reflux, which can arouse you or wake you periodically during the night,” Cassetty notes. "This situation limits that deep, restorative sleep you need to function well during the day.” Her suggestion? Finish eating at least two hours before hitting the hay.
5. ...and What You Drink
You know when you have a glass of wine after a long day and your eyes get a little droopy? Though alcohol does make you drowsy, Cassetty warns that “going above the daily suggested caps (one drink a day for women, two for men) can really disrupt your sleep patterns.” Her tip? If you’re going out for dinner, sit the first round of drinks (before you order) out. “Catch up with your friends, glance at the menu, have some water and then have a glass of wine or a non-sugary cocktail.”