Eat and Exercise for Better Sleep

During sleep the body undergoes a number of phases of repair and regeneration at a cellular level.  The body requires the correct amount and quality of sleep in order to effectively complete all of the work needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating functions such as growth and appetite. When we sleep well, we experience better clarity, energy and balance throughout our day.  Better sleep helps us with metabolism and weight, our mood, memory, and immune response.

Difficulty with sleep (“Insomnia”) is incredibly common especially in our country.  Thirty to forty percent of American adults experience symptoms each year. Insomnia can be caused by emotional or physical issues and stressors such as depression, medications, chronic pain, as well as behavioral factors predominant in our society such as TV watching before bedtime, alcohol consumption, lack of routine, or a combination of these.

Trouble falling asleep, sleeping through the night, or getting enough sleep?

Depending on the cause of your insomnia symptoms, there are many things you can consider to improve your sleep.  Here are several exercise and eating related actions you can take now too improve your sleep.

1- Exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime so that your body has time to wind down.

2- Practice aerobic exercises to combat sleeplessness. It causes physical stress that the brain later compensates for by increasing your amount of time in deep sleep. The steep rise and fall of body temperature also makes it easier to fall asleep.

3- Incorporate nurturing movement practices into your workout week, such as Yoga or Qigong.  These workouts work your mind “muscles” in addition to your body muscles…helping you:

  • control and compartmentalize your thinking and worrying so that you can intentionally reduce stimulation to the brain and relax yourself to sleep.
  • use breath work as a focus tool toward relaxation and deep rejuvenating sleep.
  • focus on one simple mind task only (as opposed to the multi-tasking frenzy we live in all day!).
  • learn to use visualization as an effective tool toward relaxation and ultimately better sleep.
  • release resistance and anxiety surrounding sleeplessness and be compassionate with yourself.


After yoga class, I felt great all day, not to mention I slept better!”  William Culbert (Brookhaven Fitness Studio Event Attendee)

“I’ve been sleeping better lately, and the only thing that has changed is that I started doing yoga!” Alivia Zamsky (Brookhaven Fitness Studio Member)

4- Limit caffeine. Drinking caffeine can make it harder for us to fall asleep at night.  Limit caffeine intake to earlier in the day so it’s out of your system by bedtime.

5- Eat for sleep. Eat foods high in magnesium, like halibut, almonds, cashews, and spinach, and foods high in vitamin B complex, like leafy green vegetables, nuts and legumes.

6- Be strategic about your evening meal.  Make your evening meal your smallest.  Keep high starch content low, and finish eating by 9pm.

7- Steer away from a pre-bedtime drink. Alcohol before bedtime can disrupt sleep cycles, and wake you up in the middle of the night. If you drink alcohol have your glass with an early dinner

8- Drink herbal teas.  Chamomile tea, for instance is a great calming tea and can ‘set the stage’ for sleep.

9- Eat tart cherries/drink cherry juice.  Tart cherries are laced with tryptophan, an essential amino acid that converts into serotonin, which, in turn, transforms into melatonin in your body, and helps with sleep.

10- Have peanuts or peanut butter as your evening snack. Peanuts are a rich source of niacin, which is another nutrient that helps to increase the release of serotonin in the system.