Sleep is a precious commodity these days. If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you already know how you’ll feel the next day — tired, cranky, and out of sorts. The American Academy of Sleep medicine recommend adults have at least 7 hours of sleep, and a little more for teens, but according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 1 in 3 people don’t get enough sleep.
Missing out on the recommended 7 hours of shut-eye can be more harmful that just making you feel groggy and grumpy. Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Science has linked poor sleep with many health problems, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and depression.
So, what can we do to help? As well as improving your night time routine, there is evidence that certain dietary behaviours promote better sleep patterns. We’ve outlined below our top tips that may help you eat your way to good sleep.
Healthy diet, healthy sleep
We all know eating healthily and keeping hydrated helps our body to function at its best, but what we may not consider is how what we eat impacts our sleep. A healthy diet allows the body to absorb the proper nutrients our brains need to produce the neurotransmitters that maintain adequate sleep. A diet high in fibre, with fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, wholegrains and pulses will help our bodies get the nutrients we need to create the amino acids that are involved in sleep.
Give your digestive system a rest, before sleep
Though a large meal can make you feel drowsy sometimes, food takes energy and time to digest. And digestion can also increase your body temperature – which has been suggested to impact sleep quality. Avoid eating large meals just before bed. Try eating an earlier dinner, and if you are feeling peckish before bed choose a light snack and avoid overeating.
Up your melatonin
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland at night time to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Interestingly, Tart cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin, which has been shown in a small study to improve sleep quality and duration. Other sources of natural melatonin include Gogi berries, raspberries, flaxseeds, tomatoes and almonds.
Relax with a herbal tea
Herbal teas have traditionally been used for generations to promote relaxation, stress relief and a good night’s sleep. Although the research is not conclusive, you might find these teas provide some relief for you. A few examples of herbs that may have a mild sedative effect include Valerian Root, Camomile, Passionflower, Lemon Balm, Lavender and Kava.
Try a kiwi
A very small study showed that eating 2 kiwi-fruit, 1 hour before bedtime significantly improved sleep quality and duration. How this works we’re not quite sure, as it could be the high level of antioxidants, folate or natural melatonin. Larger studies are needed to confirm these results.
Now you have the knowledge, it’s time to try it out! Record your sleep pattern, and hopefully you will find an improvement to your energy throughout the day with a just a few tweaks to your daily routine.
- Howatson G. et al. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr 2012 51(8):909 – 916
- Hsiao-Han Lin et al; Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2011;20(2):169-74.
- Paul D.Loprinzi Bradley, J Cardinal; Association betwenn objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005-2006. Mental Health and Physical Activity, Vol 4, Issue 2, December 2011, pages 65-69