Eat your way to better sleep
We all know what to eat to stay healthy, but did you know that the food that you eat makes a huge difference to your sleep patterns?
Check this list of dietary dos and don’ts to help you get into a pattern of healthy, happy sleep.
Things to avoid…
Sleep is the time when all of your muscles can relax, heal and strengthen. If your stomach is full when you go to bed, not only are you unable to burn off the calories that you have consumed, but your stomach cannot relax, as it has to work on digestion. If you are starting to feel hungry, your body is telling you that it’s time for bed.
This is an obvious one, but caffeine is a prime example of a product that by its very nature, is designed to keep you awake. The caffeine from coffee and tea consumption stays in your system for many hours.
Whilst alcohol gives the impression that it aids sleep, it alters your body’s natural sleep pattern. When we fall asleep, we go through 90 minute cycles of non-REM and REM sleep. Alcohol sends the body into an unnaturally deep sleep immediately, upsetting the rhythm of sleep. It is usual to wake up in the middle of the night after drinking alcohol, and feel tired and groggy in the morning. Once in this sleep pattern, it is easy to become dependent on alcohol.
Any food with processed sugar creates an unnatural energy peak, followed by a slump, which then makes you crave more sugar. Try to avoid these artificially produced energy peaks, by avoiding processed sugar entirely, or at least restricting it after midday.
Things to enjoy…
Not only does eating slowly help you to really enjoy the flavours of food and maintain a healthy weight, it also improves digestion, which can help with sleep problems. Take time to savour flavours, and feel good about every bite.
The slow release of energy from bananas makes them a perfect pudding! This great fruit contains tryptophan, an amino acid that makes you sleepy. Potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. Cherries are one of the few foods to naturally contain melatonin, the chemical that helps to regulate your body clock.
A nice (decaf) cuppa
It’s best to cut out caffeine altogether, but a good first step would be to switch to decaffeinated drinks after midday to allow your body to wind down naturally. Chamomile, passion flower and valerian teas all have a gently soothing effect.
The white stuff
Not just an old wives’ tale; a glass of milk in the evening can help you to relax. Dairy and soya milk are both packed with calcium, which helps the body to create melatonin, essential for healthy sleep.
Wholegrain foods contain plenty of Vitamin B, which is vital for strong, healthy nerves. A person lacking in this vitamin will find it difficult to relax and sleep easily, so include wholegrain nuts, seeds and pulses in your diet if possible.
You will find that a healthier diet and improved eating patterns will help you to dramatically improve the length and quality of your sleep. Sweet dreams!
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