Do you struggle to get 40 winks? Switch up your diet and you’ll be in the land of nod in no time
Did you know that one in three of us don’t get enough sleep? From hectic work schedules and overactive minds to bouts of stress, our sleep is usually the first thing to suffer when we’ve got a lot on our plate. Bed manufacturer Sealy UK’s Worldwide Sleep Census polled more than 15,000 respondents around the globe and discovered that 77 percent of Brits fail to wake up refreshed and well-rested each morning and that British women lose 10 days per year due to ‘sleep debt’ – the time spent lying awake when we should be sleeping. Make sure you’re not one of these statistics by adapting your diet to contain sleep-inducing foods for a perfect night’s slumber.
Try drinking a glass of pure coconut water in the evening to encourage a restful night’s sleep. “Coconut water is an excellent source of ‘electrolyte’ minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and sodium. Balanced levels of these minerals are necessary to maintain normal muscle action, nerve function and hydration in our body,” says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at superfooduk.com “Deficiencies or imbalances may cause cramping and restless legs at night, which can lead to disturbed sleep.”
You heard it here first – cherries can help to get us in a regular sleep pattern. “Cherries have been found to contain small amounts of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. Although all cherries may contain some melatonin, tart montmorency cherries in particular have been found in a clinical trial to increase the body’s melatonin levels and increase sleep time,” says nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
Do you often feel sleepy after a traditional Christmas lunch? No you didn't over-do it on the sprouts, turkey is actually a sleep-promoter. “Turkey contains good levels of tryptophan, the amino acid that converts into serotonin and then melatonin in our body,” says Shona. “However, tryptophan is not the only constituent that makes turkey a sleep-inducing meat. It is also a good source of zinc and vitamin B6, co-factors that help the body to produce melatonin from tryptophan.” Although it is key to note that a large serving of meat or other high-protein food late in the evening can lead to you tossing and turning at bedtime.
Add a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds to sugar-free yoghurt or a salad to give your regular meals a sleep-enhancing boost. “Pumpkin seeds are high in natural magnesium,” states Cassandra. “One of the roles of magnesium is allowing the muscle fibres in our body to relax, counteracting calcium, which causes muscles to contract. It is also thought that magnesium has a role in the normal function of the pineal gland, which produces melatonin.”
Combat unexpected wake up calls in the middle of the night by controlling your blood sugar. “If you regularly wake in the middle of the night, especially if it’s suddenly and your head is racing, have a small snack of complex carbohydrates, such as an oatcake about an hour before bed. This will prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping during the night,” explains Dr. Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar .
“You may not think you need much energy while you’re asleep, but your brain and body still need glucose to keep working. If levels fall too low, this can cause the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which can wake you up,” describes Shona. “To avoid this, make sure you have some slow-releasing carbohydrates in the evening, such as a serving of brown rice with your evening meal.”
Another good way to help maintain melatonin levels in the bloodstream is to eat more fish. “Fish are abundant sources of vitamin b6, which produces melatonin. Try adding the likes of tuna and salmon to your diet on a regular basis, to help you get a better night’s sleep,” advises Cassandra.
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