With a rise in sleep disorders (many of which are stress related) we rarely look at how the food we are eating is impacting our sleep patterns. Whilst food is not the bee all and end all (as much as sometimes I would like to believe it is) it definitely has a place in acquiring a decent nights sleep. In this article I’m sharing my top tips for a better night sleep.
Many of us require a 4 o’clock pick-me-up and will often reach for the coffee hit to keep going for the last few hours of work. However, coffee can have a half-life of 5-6 hours which means that by 9/10 o’clock the caffeine is still in our system and prevents you from winding down. Although, coffee is not the only source of caffeine, tea and chocolate (both of which are commonly consumed after dinner) also contain caffeine and whilst it may not be as strong, drinking/eating this so close to going to bed can influence your sleep. Finally fizzy drinks such as Coca-Cola and even Diet Coke contains caffeine which can keep you buzzing throughout the night.
Eat Light Dinners
We’ve all heard the saying ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper’ but in reality how many of us really stick to this? With today’s society running at double pace we tend to leave the biggest meal until the evening. These larger meals can cause discomfort and consequently disrupt your sleep.
Eat Your Carbs
Contrary to what you may believe ‘don’t eat carbs in the evening’, research has shown carbohydrates in the evening can contribute to improved sleep. I recommend consuming complex carbohydrates as these are slower releasing into the blood glucose. Foods such as sweet potato, oats (although these are more difficult to consume in the evenings), lentils, chickpeas and quinoa are complex carbohydrates and can help aid sleep. Often these foods contain Tryptophan which can be a key driver in helping you get a better night sleep.
Oats also contain melatonin, the hormone which helps relax the body and prepares you for sleep.
Look After Your Gut
There is plenty of emerging research suggesting that gut health plays a role in sleep. As well as your brain, your gut is also responsible for the release of melatonin. Ensuring that you have a healthy gut can contribute to a steady release of melatonin.
Whilst gut health is a hugely extensive and complicated topic, for those individuals who do not have gut issues I recommend incorporating plenty of pre and probiotic foods into your diet. Foods such as saukraut, Greek yoghurt, onions, garlic and kombucha are great for the gut.
Magnesium plays an important role in nerve conduction and muscle relaxation, consequently it can help you feel more at ease when falling asleep. I recommend incorporating magnesiumrich foods such as nuts and seeds, fish, dark leafy greens and beans into your evening meals. Additionally you can relax in an epsom salt bath (which are incredibly rich in magnesium) before hitting the pillow. Rest in the bath for 20 minutes as this allows your skin to absorb the magnesium. Beware though it makes you very sleepy so I recommend indulging in these when you haven’t got to get up early for work the next day.
Whilst this is totally not nutrition related I felt it necessary to include it. We are all guilty of scrolling Instagram, Facebook or Twitter right before we switch our lights off. However, the bright light in our face can impact your melatonin production and cause you to produce more serotonin which is the hormone which keeps you awake. Switching off technology at least an hour before going to sleep has shown to improve your night time sleep cycle.
If you’re struggling with sleep or are experiencing all too regular disrupted nights then follow my top tips to help improve your zzzz.