What the World’s Longest-Lived Eat (and Drink) Before Bed

What the World’s Longest-Lived Eat (and Drink) Before Bed

I understand why this 107-year-old woman attributed her long, healthy life to being single, as well as this 102-year-old woman’s reasoning. As a result, I’ve turned to the Blue Zones to help me live a longer, happier, healthier life.

So, what are the Blue Zones? This term refers to five places in the world: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. Blue Zones is a term coined by National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner. Each region has its own customs, cuisine, and culture, but they all share a few values: Purposeful living, eating mostly plant-based, and daily movement are three examples. Another is valuing low stress, which means good sleep is a must.

When asked how they sleep, most of us can’t think of anyone who would say, “I just get SO much quality sleep, never wake up in the middle of the night, and never feel drowsy when the alarm goes off.” That’s why I think many could use some Blue Zones sleep advice. People in these parts of the world typically get eight hours of solid, restful sleep per night. What?

What do they do? What the World’s Longest-Lived Eat (and Drink) Before Bed? Here are five Blue Zones sleep tips based on food.

Photo: Getty Images/Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush/EyeEm
Photo: Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush/EyeEm/Getty Images

What do the world’s oldest people eat, drink, and do before bed?

1. Blue Zone residents avoid sugary foods before bedtime and always.

Sugar isn’t always bad because it comes in many forms (17, to be exact). But it’s the added sugar that’s harmful to your health. Unless it’s a special occasion, the food in the Blue Zones is low in sugar. Rather, sugar consumption isn’t a habit in these areas, and residents tend to consciously consume it.

Studies show that eating added sugar before bedtime causes restless, disrupted sleep and makes it harder to fall asleep. These effects are due to an increase in insulin levels after consuming added sugar.

2. The Blue Zones drink green tea (a lot).

Blue Zones residents only drink tea (the others are water, coffee, and red wine). “Okinawans drink green tea all day,” the Blue Zones website says. Green tea has many advantages over coffee, including not causing crashes and being high in antioxidants.

But don’t worry if you’re caffeine sensitive. Instead, savor chamomile or mint herbal tea before bed (or later).

Photo: Blk & Bold
Photo: Blk & Bold

$18.00 – Matcha Green Tea Powder BLK & BOLD

This matcha green tea powder from BLK & BOLD is delicious hot or cold. “Matcha is loaded with catechins, which are anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting compounds,” said Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD. Antioxidants fight inflammation and help repair and heal damage in the body.

3. They only drink red wine after 5 p.m.

It’s surprising to see this on the list, and Buettner admits there’s debate over whether or not alcohol is good for your health, let alone sleep. “I’m aware of recent research showing that alcohol can cause breast cancer in women, falls, car accidents, and other fatalities,” he says. But I can tell you that in all five Blue Zones, people drink a little bit every day,” he says. “A little red wine with a plant-based meal quadruples flavonoid or antioxidant absorption and lowers cortisol levels,” he previously told Well+Good. “Alcohol is initially sedating, but once metabolized, it can lead to disrupted, poor quality sleep later in the night,” neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier told Well+Good.

Photo: Sella & Mosca
Photo: Sella & Mosca

DOC Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna — $18.00

The robust regional red wine called Cannonau is famous among Sardinians, says Buettner. This is the Blue Zones’ preferred red wine. The local name for grenache, Cannonau di Sardegna, has twice the amount of flavonoids (an antioxidant) as other red wines.

4. Blue Zone residents rarely eat right before bed.

In Okinawa, Japan, people eat their last meal of the day early in the evening, making dinner the smallest meal of the day. “Food stimulates insulin release, which competes with melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone. Insufficient melatonin production may cause difficulty falling asleep, according to Whitney English Tabaie, RDN.

5. They eat whole grain bread.

One of the World’s Longest-Lived Eat (and Drink) Before Bed is whole grain bread. The Blue Zones don’t use bleached white flour, but that doesn’t mean no bread is allowed. Locals in these areas frequently eat whole-grain bread like rye and barley, which contain nutrients and minerals like tryptophan and magnesium, which help increase serotonin levels, which in turn helps with relaxation and sleep.

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