“There's something to be said for routine when it comes to both quality sleep and digestive health, and they also support one another,” says Kelly Jones, RD, LDN. That's right—you can use your bedtime routine to your advantage to support your gut and digestive health.
First things first, do your best to stick to consistent meal times, particularly with dinner. “When the body gets used to eating at around the same time, the release of digestive hormones and relaxation becomes more automated," says Jones, which leads to easier digestion. "It's okay to have some variation, but if your body never knows when it should expect to eat, stress hormones may run higher, too—especially if you go too long without eating."
Beyond that, there are a few habits that are well-worth trying before bed to help your digestion at night and beyond. Here are a few dietitians’ top tips for getting those zzz’s and keeping your gut happy right when you wake up.
1. Nosh on Some Ginger
“Ginger has a calming effect on the digestive tract and warm beverages may be soothing as well,” says Jones. Specifically, the root is known for helping ease gas and bloating—always a good thing to nip in the bud before you get in bed. It also promotes motility, aka it keeps things moving through your digestive tract.Brew up some ginger tea before bed to help soothe your stomach, enjoy a ginger candy after dinner, or just toss some in with your dinnertime vegetables.
Honestly, what can't ginger do? Here's the lowdown on its many benefits:
2. Try Some Light Yoga
While you might already know yoga is good for digestion, streaming a class at night for even just five minutes can improve gut health and put you to sleep, says Jones. “Just do gentle yoga with low intensity twist poses, as these may help stimulate blood flow to your core for gastric motility,” she says. “This might be especially helpful if you're dealing with bloating and constipation, so you're more likely to be ready to go in the morning,” she adds.
3. Give Your Brain Designated Relaxation Time
“Many people go to sleep with high stress, never winding down from a long day, or logging off of emails or parent duties minutes before they want to fall asleep. Due to the gut-brain axis, mental stress also stresses out our digestive tracts and vice-versa,” says Jones. This can result in constipation, diarrhea, or an upset stomach, depending on the person. By setting aside five to 10 minutes of meditation or another relaxing activity (like light reading) before bed, you'll give your brain an opportunity to relax and get your mind off of the stressful stuff before you head off to snooze. That will have big benefits for your digestive health, too.
4. Eat Some Prunes
“Prunes or dried plums contain magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B6 which help produce melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. Eat two or three about an hour before bedtime—this lets you digest them but also get those benefits soon enough. Plus, eating prunes on a regular basis is good for your GI system, since they have fiber to keep you regular. Just don’t go over those three—more might have you running to the bathroom instead of the bed.
5. Turn Off the News
Remember what we said earlier about stress levels? While staying in touch with what’s going on the in the world is super important, catch up on the news in the earlier hours. “Since these are trying times, anxiety levels are peaked. Our mind-gut connection is very strong and our emotions are often experienced as GI discomfort,” says Harris-Pincus. “I've been asking clients to avoid the news or Internet surfing for a couple of hours before bed to allow your brain to calm down for sleep,” she says. Your gut will thank you, too.
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