How to Eat Your Way to Better Sleep This Fall
There’s something about autumn that just makes you want to curl up with your favorite blanket, light a candle, put on a feel-good movie and doze off on the couch while blustery winds tousle the leaves outside your window.
But what happens when your day of cozy vibes comes to an end and you crawl into bed for that sleep you’ve been craving, and the sleep just won’t come? You lie awake, mind racing, suddenly wide awake after feeling tired all day …
Less energy, and still less sleep: the autumn sleep slump is real. But, believe it or not, the answer may not be in your bedroom. Have you thought about trying the kitchen instead? Fall is full of seasonal foods that can help to promote sleep. Read on to learn more about food and sleep.
Why does sleep suffer in the fall?
Shorter days and longer nights mean one major thing: less sunlight. And less sunlight means less Vitamin D. This can cause sleep-disrupting symptoms such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Food cravings
Not to mention that sunlight also governs our circadian rhythms – the body’s internal clock. In this way, less sunlight can actually make you feel more tired than usual. Having less energy and not being able to sleep can be a nasty combination. Throw in the fall time change, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. (At least, your sleep schedule does!)
The link between food and sleep
A healthy body needs a balanced diet and quality, restorative sleep. Everybody knows it. But what about the relationship between nutrition and sleep?
Not getting enough sleep can throw your hormones that control appetite and hunger out of whack, and cause cravings and overeating. On the other hand, eating a diet that is low in fiber and high in saturated fat can decrease the amount of quality, restorative sleep you get; consuming too much sugar can cause frequent sleep disruptions; and we all know the effects that substances like caffeine can have on bedtime.
To put it simply, if you eat better, you’ll sleep better. And if you sleep better, you’ll probably eat better, too.
5 Fall foods for better sleep
If you’re looking to eat your way to better sleep this fall, you’re in luck. There are plenty of seasonal foods that can help you achieve more sleep, more restorative sleep and higher quality sleep. Take a look!
Apple picking, apple butter, apple pie … ‘tis the season for apples! You already know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But did you know that an apple a day can also promote a good night’s sleep? Apples contain lots of sleep-promoting nutrients like potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6.
2. Sweet potatoes
This Thanksgiving feast superstar not only tastes delicious, but might help you sleep better, too! They’re loaded with fiber, which is associated with deeper, more restorative sleep. They also stimulate melatonin production. Melatonin, the hormone that helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle, relaxes you and signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Here's a delicious sweet potato soup recipe to get you started!
This one might not be everyone’s favorite. But slathered on some turkey or garnishing a festive beverage, cranberries are a great source of sleep-promoting Vitamin C. Higher levels of Vitamin C are associated with fewer sleep disturbances throughout the night and can even help to relieve sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea.
Is there any flavor more autumn-y than nutmeg? This pumpkin-spice essential can help improve sleep quality and duration for a number of reasons. It’s high in fiber. It’s a good source of Vitamin C. And, it can help to lower blood pressure! This prevents any insomnia-causing hyperarousal associated with high-blood pressure.
5. Pumpkin seeds
Carving up a Jack-O-Lantern this year? Be sure to save your pumpkin seeds! This fall-favorite snack just might help you sleep better at night. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, contain both tryptophan and zinc, which as a combination can help the body produce melatonin – the sleep hormone!
Foods to avoid if sleep is a struggle
If there are foods that induce sleep, it figures that the reverse is true as well: there are foods that can keep you up at night, too. Caffeine is an obvious culprit. But did you know that alcohol, especially in excess, can keep you awake at night too? This might be surprising, because alcohol can make you feel sleepy. But it messes up your circadian rhythm and leads to more sleep disruptions throughout the night, meaning less sleep and less quality sleep.
Other foods to avoid if you are struggling with sleep include:
- Spicy foods
- Added sugars
- Fatty foods
- Overprocessed foods
Keep in mind that you needn’t avoid these foods completely. But timing and moderation are key! If you need your morning coffee, keep it to just that: in the morning. If you want to drink, just keep it to one or two beverages if you don’t want to disturb your sleep. And everyone deserves to indulge in a guilty pleasure candy bar or fast-food trip sometimes … but instead of a midnight snack, indulge earlier in the day.
The bottom line on food for sleep
If you’re have difficulty falling or staying asleep this fall, adding some seasonal foods into your diet just might be the trick – and the same goes for avoiding other foods! But if that doesn’t work, it may be time to investigate other avenues. Are you practicing good sleep hygiene? Is your mental health affecting your sleep? Check out the Happsy blog for more tips to get your sleep back on track.
And never underestimate the difference the right mattress can make when it comes to sleep. Happsy’s organic bed-in-a-box offers a hybrid design featuring latex and pocketed coils to provide the organic comfort you need for a good night’s sleep.