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Constructing the Perfect Sleep Diet: Subtracting the Bad Habits, and Adding the Good

Hopefully, you were around last time when we talked about the bad habits that almost everyone practices which make up a poor sleep diet. If not, feel free to bookmark that link and give it a good read whenever you have a chance. It contains a lot of helpful information with regard to identifying the bad habits you practice on a daily basis which are keeping you awake at night.

Unfortunately, that particular piece did not go very deeply into the good habits you should adopt in order to improve your sleep diet. But we have good news: you're about learn them! This article is chock-full of tips, strategies, and advice for constructing a healthy sleep diet. If you adopt even a few of the healthy habits you read below, you'll transition from counting sheep to counting sweet dreams in no time at all.

Good Sleep

Start Your Day Out Right: the Morning Routine

Most people make the mistake of only eating a small breakfast, or skipping the meal altogether. If you want to start following a healthy sleep diet, you have to reverse this habit completely. Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day because it gives you the energy you need to get up and go - sort of like how most people fill up their gas tank right before they start a road trip. In order to give yourself the energy you need, your breakfast should be higher in complex carbs from whole food sources with a decent amount of healthy fats and a little bit of protein.

Also, if possible, try to work out in the morning. This will be especially beneficial if you can do it outside. Not only does exercise in general tire you out and give your body a reason to feel sleepy at night, but the "bright lights, WAKE UP!" signal your brain gets from early morning sunlight exposure will make your nightly "it's dark...i can haz sleeps nao?" brain signals that much more powerful.

Lunchtime: How to Enjoy Your Midday Meal on a Healthy Sleep Diet

Powering through lunch on a small snack or no food at all may show off your impressive work ethic, but it's horrible for your nightly rest. Your lunch should be bigger than your dinner, but noticeably smaller than your breakfast. You can go harder on the protein for lunch, but keep a healthy balance of carbohydrates and fat, too. Moderation is key for your midday meal.

Squeezing in a quick but vigorous lunchtime workout is a good alternative if you cannot exercise in the morning. Again, we can't stress it enough: the more exercise you get outside, the better! This gives you the sunlight exposure you need for proper nightly melatonin balance. Midday exercise is also great because it's far enough removed from bedtime to protect you from nightly restlessness.

Winding Down for the Evening: Small Dinners, Snacks, and Sleep Hygiene

We know it sounds counterintuitive, but dinner should be your smallest and simplest meal of the day. We also understand that this may be one of the hardest changes to make if you want to follow a healthy sleep diet, but it's important to at least try. Healthy fats and quality protein should make up the bulk of your evening meal, with some fibrous carbs rounding out your plate. A leafy green salad with chicken and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing is a good example of a small, nutritionally-balanced evening meal. Furthermore, eating your evening calories should be over and done with at least two hours before your head hits the pillow. If your body is spending a ton of energy digesting a heavy meal when it should be sleeping, this can impede both your ability to fall asleep, and the quality of your rest.

There is one exception to this rule, however: if trying to sleep on an empty stomach has you tossing and turning at night, you may allow yourself a small snack immediately before bed. But that small snack must have an equal balance of complex carbohydrates and natural protein. Peanut butter on toast is a good example, or a small glass of warm milk with half a banana. But if neither of those options seem tasty to you, feel free to get creative! The protein and carbs together help unlock tryptophan, which is a known precursor to melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that makes you feel tired when the sun goes down, and serotonin helps you feel happy and relaxed so that anxious thoughts don't keep you awake at night.

If your only opportunity to exercise during the day is in the evening hours, make sure the workout is short and low impact. A 20 - 30 minute walk after dinner is ideal for a healthy sleep diet. Vigorous exercise performance close to bedtime will leave you wired and alert, preventing you from rusting easily.

Lastly, make sure you practice good sleep hygiene on a nightly basis. We've talked about sleep hygiene before, and if you haven't read that article yet, we strongly suggest you bookmark that one, too. Suffice to say that your sleeping environment should be cool, dark, and free of distractions (such as pets, electronic devices, etc.). You should also minimize your blue light exposure as much as possible to avoid a disruption in your melatonin release.

If avoiding electronics during your last few hours of the day is too difficult, then you may need to start supplementing with melatonin in order to make up for the fact that your brain will naturally be producing and releasing less of it. But you shouldn't settle for any old melatonin supplement. Melatonin by itself may be effective, but it can be even more potent if your natural sleep supplement contains other sleep-friendly ingredients. Natural botanicals like chamomile, lemon balm extract, and hops release neurotransmitters in your brain which reduce stress and induce a feeling of calm relaxation. That, coupled with the drowsiness you feel when your melatonin levels rise, will make it substantially easier for you to fall asleep once your head hits the pillow. It'll also improve the quality of your rest, too. Trust us - once you build up the good habits witch makeup a healthy sleep diet, you'll be waking up every morning feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the day.

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