Daylight Savings is quickly approaching and as a parent, I fully commiserate with fellow parents about its arrival. It doesn’t matter if the time is “falling back” or “springing forward,” our kids’ sleep patterns are inevitably disturbed, which means ours are, too.
Sleep disturbances are not foreign to parents; however, continuous lack of sleep goes beyond baggy eyes and an extra cup of coffee. In fact, chronic sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
As a parent, I understand how hard it is to get enough sleep. As a registered dietitian, I know how important what you eat can be in the quest for a solid night’s sleep. Additionally, other daily habits can take a toll on our slumber. So, what can you do to help the Z’s come a little easier?
Choose Snooze Foods
Some foods we eat can maximize how we sleep. For example, dairy foods are a source of two nutrients linked to good rest: calcium and tryptophan. Research shows calcium deficiency is linked to sleep disturbances. Tryptophan (the famous snooze-inducing nutrient found in most Thanksgiving dinners) raises serotonin and melatonin levels in the body, both of which relax the brain and the body and promote sleep. Oats are also a natural source of melatonin, so consider reaching for an oatmeal cookie and glass of milk to help you sleep better. Try our Lavender Milk Steamer for the perfect night cap. Or, try another one of our relaxing dairy drinks.
It seems obvious to avoid caffeinated beverages like energy drinks and coffee right before bed, but did you know that their effects can last up to eight hours? That means caffeinated beverages should be limited eight hours before bed.
Believe it or not, alcohol is also a sleep-hindering beverage. Although it makes you sleepy initially, the effects of relaxation wear off, causing disrupted sleep. In fact, experts say it can also prevent the crucial rapid eye movement (REM) cycle during sleep.
We are all attached to our digital devices throughout the day, but research shows screen time before bed interferes with sleep. Try setting a ‘shutdown time’ when you unplug or shut down devices an hour or so before bed to give your brain a chance to slow down before hitting the pillow.
Exercise can promote good sleep, but it is dependent on when you do it. Working out first thing in the morning or during the day is associated with better sleep, but evening exercise makes it harder to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends exercising no less than three hours before bedtime, if possible.
At the end of the day, being a parent means wearing many different hats and a cap for a long winter’s nap is not usually one of them. However, taking steps to be healthier will make your family healthier and happier, too.
Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD