Using Nutrition To Improve Your Sleep

Sleep is something I’ve been speaking a lot about over the past month as it’s becoming more and more apparent that impaired sleep is not only leaving us feeling more tired or leaving us with eye bags and dark circles. It’s actually having a significant impact on our overall health.

Research has suggested that impaired sleep can contribute to a number of health issues including: weight gain, diabetes risk, impaired hormonal function and increased cravings for high sugar high fat foods to name a few.

With so many of us leading extremely busy and highly stressful lives we’re going to bed highly strung which is also significantly impairing sleep quality.

As a result I’ve shared some all too common habits which may be further hindering your sleep quality.

1. Excess coffee intake
This isn’t exactly revolutionary news although it is important to understand how caffeine might be affecting you. Caffeine delays the onset of adenosine which makes you feel tired throughout the day. It also delays the onset of GABA (a neurotransmitter which leaves you feeling calm and ready for sleep). Ensure you’re not consuming caffeine after 2pm and opt for herbal teas in the evening.

2. Eating a large meal before you go to sleep
Studies have shown that eating a large meal before you hit the pillow may delay sleep latency this means it will take you longer to fall asleep. This could be due to a delayed secretion of melatonin and the fact your gut is working hard to digest all the food. I recommend you eat dinner at least 2 hours before bed and if this isn’t possible then opt for a lighter dinner such as soup or salad.

3. Scrolling
WE ARE ALL GUILTY (myself included). However, what we do now know is that the light in our faces can inhibit the release melatonin (the sleep hormone). Try limiting your light exposure an hour before hitting the hay.

So I’ve given you the don’ts but you’re probably wondering what you can DO to help improve your snooze.

 1. Consume a fibre rich dinner 
Supporting your gut is essential for improving your sleep as melatonin is not only released in the brain but is released in the gut too. A healthy gut will help to absorb more melatonin and promote better sleep. Foods rich in fibre include: fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and legumes.

2. Eat foods rich in tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid which is converted into serotonin and contributes to improved sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan include: turkey, oats, dates, yoghurt, chickpeas, buckwheat, fish and eggs.

 3. Ensure adequate magnesium status
Magnesium plays a key role in muscle and nerve relaxation. Food sources include quinoa, nuts, green leafy vegetables, black beans and dark chocolate. Alternatively bathe in an epsom salt bath before bed as this is a great way to absorb the magnesium.

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Bonus tip: some research suggests that tart cherry juice stimulates the production of serotonin through increasing tryptophan availability. Tart cherry juice has also been shown to reduce inflammation.

There you have a few tips to help improve the quality of your sleep. You should note there are many more nutrition factors which may affect your sleep but in respect for your time I’ve left it at that for now!