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Nutrition for Caregivers: Nutrition and Sleep

by Lacy Ngo MS, RDN

Why is Sleep Important?

You are a caregiver, and you have a great deal on your plate right now. With so much on your mind, you may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and yet sleep is so important to your ability to function. Lack of sleep can negatively impact our mental health and brain function and increase the risk of many chronic conditions.

Quality Sleep can also help with the following:

  • Sleep gives the cleansing wave time to occur. The cleansing wave is a muscular contraction that helps clear debris from the small intestines. This cleansing wave happens when we are not digesting foods, like when we sleep. The cleansing wave is important for gut health.
  • Sleep helps with mood and mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Sleep aids in weight management (lack of sleep can cause weight gain).
  • Sleep reduces the risk of some chronic conditions like heart disease and stroke.

With all of these benefits, you can see why finding ways to get the best quality sleep is so crucial.

Mindfulness and Sleep

In a past article, I talked about mindfulness and mindful eating and some of the benefits. Practicing mindfulness and mindful breathing before bed also helps us sleep. So right before bed, focus on taking in deep, slow breaths. This will calm your mind and help you feel relaxed.

Food and Sleep

Certain foods can also help you feel calm before bed. Calming foods and drinks to try before bed include hot green tea, chamomile tea, and tart cherries. Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin. According to research, tart cherry juice may improve sleep. Eating nutrient-dense carbohydrates (like whole grains) with a tryptophan-rich food (like meat and nuts) has a calming effect as well.

Anti-anxiety foods can help with stress throughout the day and thus may help with overall sleep.

An anti-anxiety diet is rich in:

  • Omega-3 foods like salmon, tuna, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
  • Antioxidants-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Probiotics like yogurt, sour kraut, kimchi, and kombucha.

When following an anti-anxiety diet, you should also limit sugar, ultra-processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.

Mindfulness, mindful breathing, and nourishing anti-anxiety foods can help with sleep by calming your mind before bed.

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