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What to Eat for an Energetic Day and Restful Sleep

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Healthy foods throughout the day can improve your sleep. Find out what to do and what to avoid — from breakfast to dinner.


You know that sleep is important — but did you know that the foods you eat throughout the day can have a big impact on how you're feeling, and how well you sleep at night?


Think about the way you want to feel and choose foods that support your goals of having an energetic day and a restful sleep.


Read on to learn how food can help you have a restful night of sleep.




First thing in the morning, you need a breakfast that gives you energy to start the day. It should sustain you through your morning — whether you're helping your kids start their day, getting in a workout, or leading an 8 a.m. meeting.


According to the Harvard Medical School, the best breakfasts are filled with protein and whole grains. Oatmeal can be the base for the perfect breakfast to start your day. If you want a savory breakfast, try oatmeal with an egg and some chives. If you want a sweeter meal, enjoy your oatmeal with berries and walnuts. The best part? Oatmeal can be prepared the night before for a quick breakfast. Just because it's a busy morning doesn't mean you have to skip breakfast.


If you prefer a colder breakfast, whole grain cereals with fruit and almond milk can also boost your morning energy without relying on sugary coffee drinks.


Breakfast ideas:

  • Oatmeal — savory or sweet

  • Chia Seed Pudding

  • Whole grain cereals with fruit and almond milk



Mid-morning Snack

When you have a 10 a.m. meeting, lunch can seem very far away. Keep snacks nearby that are portable, tasty and that will help you manage your growing hunger.


Choose for snacks filled with protein: Nuts like almonds and walnuts are filling even in small amounts, and have health benefits beyond keeping you full until lunch. To keep your snacks cost-effective and Earth-friendly, buy a bulk bag of your nuts of choice, and then portion it into reusable containers to keep near you while you work.


If nuts don't work for you, string cheese and yogurt can both give you plenty of protein to help you stay satiated until lunchtime.


Mid-morning snack ideas:

  • Nuts

  • String cheese

  • Yogurt




Your midday meal break should fill you up and help you stay energetic throughout the rest of the day. Foods like brown rice, sweet potatoes, lentils and quinoa all have a low glycemic index. These foods will be digested slowly and keep your energy from spiking and crashing.

Pair those foods with lean proteins like chicken, and fruits like strawberries, avocados or bananas to fill you up with good sources of fiber.


Lunch ideas:

  • Brown rice, sweet potatoes, lentils, quinoa

  • Lean proteins

  • Fruit



Afternoon Snack

Before you decide on an afternoon snack, take a look at your schedule. Are you taking a yoga class after work? Consider a banana or a fruit smoothie with strawberries, oranges and spinach to make sure you have enough energy to power you through your workout. If your snack is there to tide you over until dinner, try a cup of air-popped popcorn to fill you up.


Afternoon snack ideas:

  • Banana

  • Fruit smoothies with spinach

  • Air-popped popcorn




When you're looking to wind down your day and getting ready to sleep, tryptophan is the amino acid you want in your dinner. Tryptophan's presence in turkey is something experienced every Thanksgiving, but you don't have to wait until November to enjoy turkey. Ground turkey can make tasty tacos or burgers.


Dairy is also a source of tryptophan, so foods with cheese, yogurt and milk can help you sleep better. Omega-3 fatty acids promote a restful night's sleep as well and can be found in high doses in fish like salmon and tuna.


Besides looking for soothing foods that will help you sleep, also keep in mind that caffeine sometimes lurks in unexpected places and it could work against you. Chocolate contains caffeine, with the darker varieties containing the most caffeine. Coffee is often used in baking chocolate goods like brownies and cake, so be sure not to overindulge on these items. Swap your after-dinner black tea with an herbal variety or leave it out completely.


For the most restful sleep, it's best to avoid caffeine after noon. Why? Six hours after you ingest caffeine, half of it is still in your system, which can interrupt your sleep causing you to feel groggy in the morning.


Dinner ideas:

  • Meals with turkey, salmon or tuna

  • Dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk)



Late-night Snack

Even if you've done everything right, there are some nights when sleep won't come along as quickly as you would like. Sometimes, a feeling of hunger may keep you awake.


On those evenings, consider drinking some chamomile tea or milk, avoiding alcohol, and eating a banana to get another dose of tryptophan before heading back to bed. Pineapple also has a high amount of tryptophan, so consider keeping some sliced in your refrigerator or freezer for nights when you need a little help getting to sleep.


Late-night snack ideas:

  • Chamomile tea or milk

  • Fruit, like banana or pineapple


And, if you wake up groggy each morning, maybe it's time to change your mattress. Science shows us that loss of sleep or poor sleep could adversely affect your immune system, leaving you susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Quality sleep is a natural immune booster, helping your focus, mood, ability to manage stress, and reduces cravings for junk food. 


5 tips for using a healthy diet to improve your sleep:


1) Don't Skip Meals

The nutrients we get from food are the building blocks for other proteins and minerals required to create the amino acids involved in sleep.


Since our food choices help regulate our circadian rhythm — including waking up in the morning, falling asleep at night, metabolizing the food we eat, and feeling hungry when we need energy — meal timing or not skipping meals is important to sleep, according to Ratti.


If you're truly not hungry, putting off meal time until later is better than skipping it entirely. Also, try eating a small snack or portion just to keep up your energy and get your metabolism humming along.


2) Eat a Nutritious Breakfast

Getting quality sleep through food starts with breakfast.


“A lot of people know that what you eat after dinner can impact your sleep, but it's also true that what you eat for breakfast can make a difference," says Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN, a nutritionist at Frugal Nutrition, a Baltimore-based food blog. “A hearty, filling breakfast sets you up for stable blood sugar throughout the day, which is one of the most significant factors for mood, energy and sleep."


Aim for a breakfast with fat, fiber and protein — and make carbs (pastry, muffin, potatoes) a supporting cast member rather than the star of the show.


Some good examples: breakfast burrito filled with eggs, beans and cheese; yogurt with fruit and nuts or turkey sausage patty and sliced avocado on whole wheat toast. Short on time? Try this make ahead breakfast pudding


3) Watch Your Sugar Intake

Too much sugar affects blood sugar levels, which directly influence energy levels throughout the day. Sugar boosts energy quickly but causes an energy crash soon after.


“These sudden changes might lead to poorly-timed naps or a need for extra caffeine," says Ratti.


Limiting sugar intake helps to keep energy consistent throughout the day and promotes better sleep at night.


4) Eat Foods That Contribute to Good Sleep

We all know that turkey makes us sleepy from Thanksgiving dinner, but other foods can contribute to good sleep, too.

  • Bananas contain serotonin, a hormone that helps set you up for sleep, while berries are ripe with melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, as are almonds.

  • Fatty fish like salmon may help you sleep due to its omega 3s and vitamin D content.

  • For tryptophan, the amino acid needed to produce sleep hormones, enjoy some good old turkey as well as milk, yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds.

  • Research also gives a nod to tart cherry juice for its inflammatory cytokines and melatonin — ingredients that help with both sleep time and sleep efficiency.


5) Avoid Heavy, Greasy Or Spicy Meals 3 Hours Before Bedtime

Your digestive system works in overdrive if you overeat or chow down a heavy meal too close to bedtime. All that gas, bloating and indigestion can keep you from getting your best night's sleep.


What's more, spicy foods may increase your metabolism and your body temperature, making it harder to sleep. Some people report that spicy foods seem to cause vivid or weird dreams or nightmares that disrupt their sleep.


Scientists continue to research various aspects of diet and nutrition and their connection to sleep. Trying to make the healthiest diet choices and avoiding some of the dietary pitfalls that can impede sleep may help you improve your sleep quality and allow you to get the quality shuteye you need.


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal wellbeing and performance. Because everyone's sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® smart beds sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep.


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