by guest author, nutrition specialist Vince Paquette
Sleep is one of the top 3-5 issues that American patients bring up at doctor and practitioner visits each year.
This comes as no surprise, since financial stress, work-related anxiety, and screen use all impede sleep—and these things are pervasive in American culture.
While financial relief doesn’t come easily or quickly, and work satisfaction can require deep introspection, there are some things most of us can tweak that can help provide restful sleep in the face of these stresses.
The first, which you’ve probably already heard, is to develop a nighttime routine. We can almost always find a way to train our brains to sleep if we take a week or two to “wind down” at the same time, the same way, every night. You can find some suggested steps for your routine at the bottom of this post.
Something you may not have heard, however, is that if you’re just starting your routine, or your routine doesn’t always work for you, there may be some nutritional tweaks you can try.
Here are 3 that might help you improve your sleep!
#1 - Make sure you’re getting your vitamin D.
According to Healthline, as many as 40% of people in the US have some level of vitamin D deficiency. This deficiency has been linked to a number of cancers, heart disease, weight gain, and sleep disorders. Making sure you get enough of it is very important!*
If you’re already taking vitamin D, or you spend a considerable amount of your daily routine indoors away from sunlight, consider taking D3 before you go to sleep.
This form of vitamin D, which is most commonly produced by your own skin when you’re exposed to sunlight, is one that that your body processes slowly, eventually stimulating your pineal gland to create melatonin, a natural chemical which allows your body to sleep when it needs to. D3, which is available at almost any drugstore, helps to ensure that once you fall asleep, you’re able to sleep through the night.
But what if you struggle to fall asleep?
#2 - Try melatonin with your vitamin D.
Many who take melatonin find that it works for helping to fall asleep, even if it doesn’t help them to stay asleep through the night. Pairing melatonin with your vitamin D helps your chances that you not only fall asleep—because your body processes the melatonin quickly—but that you stay asleep. D3 helps your body continue to produce melatonin even after the initial melatonin you consumed before bed is gone from your system.
#3 - Have a banana.
While other fruits are considered to be high in sugar and would therefore negatively impact your sleep, bananas’ sugar mostly comes in the form of fructose, a low-glycemic-index sugar, which is assimilated more slowly into your system. This essentially means that a banana won’t cause your blood sugar to spike, allowing your body to benefit from its nutrients while you sleep—some of which are very good for rest!
A banana feels substantive in your stomach, so if you’re someone who wakes up hungry in the night, a banana will sate your hunger while also giving you the magnesium and potassium your body may need for your muscles to relax. And because bananas contain carbohydrates, they naturally promote sleepiness.
Even better? Bananas are great for your cardiovascular health and cognitive function, so after a good night’s rest, they may even improve your focus and alertness the following day!
Tips for Creating a Nighttime Routine
It can take as little as a week for your brain to recognize that you’ve created a series of actions that mean you’re about to go to sleep.
When you’re first developing a routine, it’s a good idea to have a series of steps that consume the better part of an hour before you hit the hay, and to do all of them, in the same order, at the same time, every night consecutively for a couple weeks.
Some of the steps you might include in your routine are:
Making a list of 3 tasks you plan to complete for the following day.
Picking the outfit you plan to wear the next day.
Shutting off your computer, setting the alarm on your phone and then turning off the screen at least 30 minutes before bed.
Taking some melatonin with vitamin D3.
Brushing your teeth and washing your face.
Making your bed before you get into it.
Turning on a white noise machine or fan.
Reading a book or magazine, so that you aren’t tempted to turn your electronic devices back on.
After following the same sequence every night for a couple weeks, if you’re still having trouble, talk with your doctor to see if there may be something more serious going on.
Pin this article so you never lose it, and let us know by leaving a comment which of these nutritional tips was most helpful for you!
*You can have your blood professionally tested if you want to find out if you are vitamin D-deficient; though it is far more rare that a person’s body contains so much vitamin D that it becomes toxic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/vitamin-d-toxicity/faq-20058108), so adding vitamin D to your routine is probably, at the very least, not going to hurt you.