What a Dietitian Eats and Drinks For Better Sleep
The 3-Step Bedtime Routine That Helps This Dietitian Sleep More Soundly
If you have trouble clocking the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night, know that you're not alone. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping one in three American adults don't get enough sleep, leaving many people feeling groggy and sluggish.
As a registered dietitian, I've seen at first hand how not getting quality and adequate sleep can wreak havoc on a person's health. From an increased risk of depression to a higher likelihood of hypertension, heart attack, and stroke, skimping on sleep can have serious consequences. That's why I've always made sleep a priority. In addition to following the usual sleep-hygiene advice — like keeping my room cool and dark, not allowing screens in the bedroom, and sticking to a sleep schedule — I take some extra steps to ensure I get restful sleep. Every night as I'm winding down, I enjoy a warm cup of rooibos tea, a handful of peanuts, and a magnesium glycinate supplement.
This combination may seem super random, but there's a method to my madness that seems to work. Here's how each of these things may help people achieve better sleep.
Nearly two-thirds of the population in the western world do not get the recommended daily allowance of magnesium. In addition to supporting bone health and healthy blood pressure, research shows that magnesium has a relaxant effect and helps to facilitate sleep. In one study published in the Journal of Research and Medical Sciences, magnesium supplements were associated with significant improvement in some measures of insomnia, including sleep time and sleep efficiency. It's worth noting that the participants in this study were elderly, and there are still lingering questions about magnesium's potential benefits for sleep — but as long as you get the green light from your doctor to try a supplement, it's worth a shot.
While sipping on a cup of tea to unwind is nothing new, I specifically lean on rooibos tea for a few reasons. For one, it's caffeine-free, making it a perfect soothing drink pre-bedtime. Plus, rooibos has been shown to inhibit cortisol production, which may help people feel more relaxed. Finally, rooibos tea has lower tannin levels than regular black or green tea, making it a better choice to take at the same time as my magnesium.
Why does the tannin level matter to me? Tannins are natural compounds that can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients, including magnesium. And if I'm making the effort and the investment to take magnesium supplements, the last thing I want to do is drink something that will minimize my body's ability to actually utilize this nutrient.
A handful of peanuts before bed gives my body a boost of tryptophan, an amino acid that's been linked to better sleep quality. And while there are many bedtime snacks that are totally satisfying, shelled peanuts also have low tannin levels, making them less likely to compete with the absorption of my magnesium supplement. As an added bonus, peanuts are a natural source of magnesium, helping me further meet my quota of this important mineral.
For over a year, this pre-bedtime ritual has helped me get the solid and restful sleep that I need in order to function during the day. Whether this trifecta of magnesium, rooibos tea, and peanuts truly helps my body unwind or if it works because of the placebo effect is a big question mark for sure. But taking these steps comes with little risk, so there's little (if any) downside to trying them for yourself.