A lack of sleep affects energy, productivity and also the way we look. Have a look at the best foods to snack on to get that all-important good night’s kip…
Certain nuts, like walnuts, pecans, almonds and Brazil nuts, are a great source of tryptophan which is needed to make melatonin, the hormone that sets your sleep-wake cycles. Almonds especially are rich in minerals needed for that good quality sleep we all love. Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council describes almonds as a winner because they change the body from being alert and let it go into rest mode. They also regulate your heart rhythm and promote muscle relaxation. Basically a massage in a nut.
Rice has a high GI, so eating it will minimise the time it takes you to fall asleep. Nutritionist, Lorna Driver-Davies of Nutricentre.com recommends having some slow releasing carbohydrates in the evening in the form of ‘a serving of brown rice or a slice of rye bread with your evening meal.’ In a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, research found that jasmine rice was the best for getting that all-important shut-eye. Sounds good to us!
Cherries contain small amounts of melatonin (the hormone that sets your sleep-wake cycles) and specifically tart cherries have been found to help us to sleep longer. Nutritional Therapist, Shani Shaker of superradiance.co.uk suggests that if you suffer from insomnia you should try drinking a glass of tart cherry juice twice a day. It doesn’t get much better than a sweet treat and a sleep enhancer in one!
This snack combines two components for getting some sleep. The cereal contains carbohydrates and the milk contains calcium. It is best to have a bowl an hour before bed. Oatmeal is best for this. Oats are rich in melatonin, which relaxes your muscles and makes you feel sleepy. Lorna recommends that if you are eating your last meal a long time before going to bed, try eating a half-size bowl of porridge later before bed. Anything that lets us snack in the evening is a winner!
This one shouldn’t be hard for us Brits. According to researchers a chamomile brew before bed is best. Drinking the tea is thought to increase glycine, the chemical that relaxes nerves and acts like a mild sedative. Mandie Porter, tea expert at Whittard, explains that it has been used since Roman times to ease people into sleep due to its natural ability to relax people. More recent studies have also shown that drinking a cup of passion fruit tea helped people to hit the hay. Researchers believe that certain chemicals in the flower make you feel tired.
Green leafy veggies like the superfood Kale are full of stress-releasing calcium, which helps the brain to manufacture melatonin and in turn helps us to sleep. They are also packed with magnesium which is needed to relax our muscles and what Lorna describes as ‘nature’s tranquiliser.’ This one is so easy to combine with your evening meal and super guilt-free.
A warm glass of milk before bed can actually help you to sleep. Lisa names dairy products as one of the top sleep-inducing foods and by having dairy products, like yoghurt or milk, before bed you are getting a good dose of calcium. This, similarly to your leafy greens, assists the brain in manufacturing melatonin. So it’s not just an old wives tale!
Bananas are well known for being rich in potassium, but they are also a good source of Vitamin B6, which is needed to create that handy hormone melatonin. Dietitian and nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker explains that ‘they release energy slowly and blood sugar levels are kept nice and even which aids sleep.’ They’re healthy, they help you to sleep and Gwen Stefani wrote a song about them… What’s not to love?
Certain carbohydrates can help us to sleep. As usual it is best to stick to healthier carbs like quinoa or brown rice (sorry to cut short the pizza and cookies daydream). Quinoa is especially good for its high magnesium and protein content. Shani recommends it as it contains tryptophan ‘which has natural sedative effects.’ It also cooks quickest out of all the grains making it ideal for those ‘can’t be bothered to cook’ moments.
Like many of the above foods, flaxseeds also have high levels of tryptophan. The magnesium in them will help relax the muscles and the omega-3 fatty acids are thought to relieve stress symptoms that can interrupt that perfect night of sleep. Lorna recommends ‘including one to two tablespoons of flaxseeds a day: add them to sugar-free yoghurt or salads, or grind them up in a coffee grinder and add to porridge.’