5 Dietary Hacks for Better Sleep
We spend approximately a third of our lives asleep. For some this may seem wasteful, for others blissful. Where there is no dispute is in the fact that sleeping is as essential to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing. Whilst sleeping, our body can detoxify, repair and regenerate its cells and tissues, vital for maintaining both good physical and mental health. There is no set amount of sleep suitable for everyone, and it is true that some people need more than others. However good quality sleep is important for all, and poor sleep over a prolonged period can lead to problems such as lowered immunity, weight gain, poor concentration and memory, anxiety, stress and depression.
Sleep problems are multifactorial, and in more serious cases may need medical intervention and psychological support. However what we do know is that certain nutrients can play an important role in aiding a restful night, and below are 5 recommended dietary hacks to improve your sleep.
An amino acid that our body uses to make the sleep-inducing substances serotonin and melatonin. To help with sleep, try having a food containing tryptophan in the evening. Nuts, seeds, yoghurt, turkey and banana are all great sources. You can increase the levels of tryptophan in your blood by combining this with something carbohydrate-rich. Good pre-bedtime snack ideas include a small bowl of natural yoghurt with fresh fruit, or nut butter on oatcakes.
Cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin- the “sleep” hormone. Fresh cherries, dried cherries, and tart cherry juice (without added sugar) are not only delicious, but may also be a useful sleep aid. A recent study also found that eating kiwi fruit before bed may help aid sleep. 24 subjects consumed 2 kiwis 1 hour before bed every night for 4 weeks, and after this time both total sleep time and sleep efficiency were significantly increased.
The name often given to magnesium due to its calming properties. Magnesium can help the body to relax and the mind to unwind at the end of the day.
Dark green leafy vegetables
Such as kale, spinach and broccoli; nuts, seeds and pulses are all packed with this mineral.
There has been increasing interest in the natural supplement 5-hydroxytryptophan, more commonly known as 5-HTP, as a natural sleep aid. 5-HTP works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which can then be converted to melatonin, the hormone needed to regulate the sleep-wake cycles. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with both insomnia and depression. Always consult with your health practitioner before starting a dietary supplement.
Whilst it is easy to view sleep as just a bit of “downtime”, increasing evidence suggests that getting a good nights kip is one of the most important ways we can better our health.
Naomi Mead is very passionate about the role of nutrition in health. She is a nutritional therapist and co-founder of Food First. She also contributes regularly on Nutrition Expert where she writes about weight management, female health, sports nutrition and digestive disorders.