Do you ever have trouble getting to sleep? Once you do drift off, how is the quality of your slumber? If you’ve ever struggled with a disturbed sleeping pattern, or experienced insomnia like 1/3 of the UK population, you’ll know the impact it can have on work, play and everything in between.
As our understanding of nutrition advances, more scientific studies are taking place to determine the complex links between how our diet can affect our sleep. A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that people with the most varied diet reported the healthiest sleeping patterns.
Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., CEO of the National Sleep Foundation states that some foods can act as ‘sleep promoters’, whilst others are ‘sleep stealers’ when eaten right before bedtime.
The Sleep Stealers
So, which foods and eating habits can you weed out of your diet to start seeing positive improvements in your sleep straight away?
- Foods that are difficult to digest such as fried foods, garlic, onions, peppers and spices can all be crossed straight off your list. Indigestion is a common cause of counting sheep, and capsaicin found in chillis is a natural stimulant.
- Red meat such as steak is high in fat, slow to digest and can disrupt the circadian rhythm if eaten too close to bedtime.
- Saturated fats and sugar. A new study by American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that foods high in these led to lighter, less restorative, and more disrupted sleep.
- Large meals in the evening. A study found that you should avoid eating for as long as three hours before you hit the hay, to optimise your blood sugar, insulin and leptin levels and contribute towards deep, restful sleep.
- Simple carbohydrates cause a spike in blood sugar and energy, and may lead to more late-night cravings which keep you awake if eaten in the evening.
- Alcohol initially aids sleep, however it reduces the quality of snooze once you arrive at the land of nod, by reducing the restorative REM period.
- Caffeine has a half-life of five hours, meaning that even ten hours later, 25% of it will still be in your system, and 12.5% could linger on 20 hours later depending on your body’s metabolic rate.
The Sleep Senders
- The prior mentioned study by American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that those who ate a high fibre experienced more peaceful snoozing, possibly due to improved overall digestion.
- This key antioxidant can be found in watermelon, grapefruit, tomatoes, and papaya, and has been linked to better sleep.
- The key nutrient selenium, which can be found in fish such as halibut, tuna and cod, along with shellfish, turkey and nuts.
- Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to disturbed sleep, so combat this with enriched foods such as pineapple, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, and kale.
- Complex carbohydrates. According to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating easily digestable carbs (such as brown rice) around four hours before bedtime caused people to fall asleep more quickly.
- This amino acid can help to boost the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Chicken and turkey, milk and dairy, nuts and seeds are all good sources.
- Herbal tea. Whilst all of the above foods will contribute to your overall health and wellbeing, many studies have suggested that lighter bites in the evening are best for a settled stomach that’s prime for sleeping. Non-caffeinated teas such as camomile and valerian can help to digest your evening meal, and also contain relaxing properties to help you drift off.
Don’t forget the other contributing factors of poor sleep hygiene that can cause problems, such as allergy-causing dust mites, blue light emitting technology late at night, an uncomfortable mattress and high stress levels. Sleepbear mattresses and pillows are hypoallergenic, and provide the perfect level of medium-firm support, suited to most sleepers.
So, there we have it! We hope you found this guide to sleep nutrition useful, and we’d love to hear your feedback over on Facebook.
Happy snoozing, bears 💤