The Ultimate Diet to Reset Your REM Cycle
You've heard that you can eat your way to a better body, clearer skin, and shinier hair, but what about better sleep? Yes, your diet is just as important for your sleep cycle as are exercise and a calm mind. While some foods can improve your REM cycle, others may be catastrophic for your sleep hygiene. We're providing a guide for what to eat and what to avoid to preserve the quality of your sleep, but it's most important that you first learn your personal gastrointestinal triggers. Every stomach is different, and the only way to improve your REM cycle with your diet is by listening to your body.
There's nothing like coming home at the end of a hard workday and enjoying a cold beer or a crisp glass of wine. But consuming alcohol within four to six hours of bedtime puts your REM cycle at risk. While a few sips (or glasses) of vino may help you relax and fall asleep, an alcohol-fueled rest is prone to restlessness, nightmares, night sweats, and headaches. In lieu of a nightcap, sip on cherry juice. Cherries are one of the few natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that helps control your body's internal clock. Science confirms that drinking tart cherry juice before bed can improve your sleep quality.
In case you weren't already aware, decaf coffee is not caffeine-free. So that oh-so-European café apres dinner is oh so very bad for your REM cycle. Instead, opt for an herbal cup of tea like mint or chamomile and top with a touch of honey. Hot beverages are scientifically proven to help people feel secure and less lonely, both of which are contributing factors to a great night's sleep. Peppermint tea also serves as a digestive aid, so consuming a cup after dinner will help speed your body's processes along so you can hit the pillow on the earlier side.
A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who consumed high-glycemic-index jasmine rice fell asleep far faster than those who consumed low-glycemic long-grain rice. If you're having trouble falling asleep, save a large portion of your carb quota for end-of-day munching. Sure, veggies are a great source of nutrients, but if you polish off a plate of broccoli just a couple of hours before going to bed, you'll be up late as your intestines spend hours trying to break down the fibrous plant.
Dairy is a proven sleep aid. Warm milk before bedtime isn't just a comforting tradition your grandma taught you; it's an excellent dose of tryptophan, a precursor to the brain chemical serotonin. Opt for a small slice of cheese and a cracker before bed. The small indulgence will only set you back a couple hundred calories, but it will give you a head start on tomorrow's calorie burn. Because cheese contains casein proteins, it will give your metabolism a boost the following day when consumed 30 minutes before bed. Skip the fro-yo, though. A lot of chemicals are often mixed in with that yogurt, and those irresistible, sugary toppings will keep you buzzed long after bedtime.
While some veggies like broccoli and cauliflower are difficult to digest between dinner and lights out, leafy greens can help lull you into a coma-like sleep. Greens like kale and collards are chock-full of calcium, which aids in sleep regularity. Chili is just about the worst thing you could have right before bed. It's filled with spice, beans, animal fat, and fibrous veggies. One bowl of this cold-weather favorite and you're bound for a restless night of heartburn, indigestion, and bathroom visits.
Dark chocolate is loaded with caffeine. Dried fruit is sugar on steroids. And salty peanuts will have you downing multiple glasses of water, which leads to multiple bathroom stops. These are subprime ingredients to include before bedtime. So ditch the trail mix and opt for unsalted almonds or walnuts instead. Laden with magnesium, almonds promote both sleep and muscle relaxation. They also help regulate your blood sugar level, keeping you nice and chill for a great REM cycle. Walnuts are full of tryptophan, which boosts serotonin and melatonin production. If your body clock is in trouble, opt for these raw, crunchy favorites.
The last thing you want to eat before you rest up for a big day is a cheeseburger with french fries. Fat overload stimulates the production of acid in your stomach, which ultimately bubbles over into your esophagus. If you're looking to avoid sleep-killing heartburn and want to catch some solid z's, go pescatarian. Wild salmon, halibut, and tuna all make great meal choices as they are filled with vitamin B6—an essential building block of melatonin.