Can what you eat and drink especially before bed actually affect your sleep? Absolutely. The connection between food and sleep is complex. Studies now show that people who are sleep deprived tend to eat more fat-rich foods, simple carbohydrates such as white rice, white sugar and fewer vegetables. Eating and sleeping well are two vital components of health that are tied in surprising ways. In fact, some researchers believe sleep deprivation to be a factor in the rising rates of obesity.
Try to consume foods that contain these nutrients to help promote a good night’s sleep:
Magnesium rich food
Magnesium is one of the key nutrients related to sleep. Also a muscle relaxant, magnesium has added benefits such as helping in protein metabolism and maintaining a stable blood sugar level during sleep.
Eat: Banana, almond, pumpkin seed, dark green leafy vegetables.
Melatonin rich food
A hormone secreted by our brain, melatonin’s main function is to regulate our body clock and control our sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels rise in the late evening and remain high for the night, dropping in the morning when we wake up. But as we age, our melatonin drops, in turn affecting our sleep.
Eat: Cherries are the champion here with about 5x more melatonin than other food sources that contain it. Experts say sipping a glass of cherry juice or having a serving of fresh, frozen or dried cherries before bedtime can help you sleep better. Other foods containing melatonin are walnuts, mustard seeds, corn, ginger root.
Tryptophan rich food
Tryptophan is a type of amino acid, it is a precursor to the brain to increase the production of “serotonin” – a brain chemical believed to act as a mood stabiliser and promote healthy sleep patterns. In other words, serotonin is a “happy brain chemical”. People who have depression often have a low serotonin levels and while you can’t find serotonin in food, you can find tryptophan.
Eat: Tuna, chicken, egg, soya foods like tofu, tempeh, edamame, white fish such as cod, oats, beans, lentils - these foods promote the body to regenerate more serotonin, which then helps you relax more and promote better sleep.
What to avoid:
Caffeine such as coffee and chocolate drinks
It may seem obvious, but caffeine is a central nervous stimulant so drinking things that contain caffeine too close to bedtime will keep you up at night. Of course, people differ in their sensitivity to caffeine and that is usually based on how much caffeine you are accustomed to consuming. If you don’t know your tolerance, skip the coffee especially late in the day.
Instead, try these herbal teas and oils:
Certain herbal tea also have mild sedative effects that are able to calm you down and promote better sleep.
Linden flower (lime tree)
In herbal medicine, linden tea is recommended to combat anxiety and promote relaxation. It is also believed that it can help to lower blood pressure.
How to consume: Dried linden flowers in loose form or packed in tea bags are generally available at health-food stores. To make the tea, steep a tea bag or about 1 teaspoon of dried flowers in boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes and drink up to three times daily.
Loved for its aroma, lavender is also used as a remedy for a range of ailments particularly in insomnia, anxiety attacks and depression. Calming, soothing, lavender has mild sedative effect when you use it in both as a scent or taking internally as a tea. Scientific evidence suggests that lavender may calm down the nervous system, lift the mood, and improve sleep quality.
How to use: You can use it in different ways, in ancient times pillow were filled with lavender flower to help restless sleep. You can use it as an essential oil, as a massage oil or drink it as lavender tea.
Among all natural remedies for sleeping, chamomile is probably the most popular one. A soothing tea that promotes relaxation and better sleep, its effectiveness is due to its mild sedative and anti-anxiety properties. Additionally, chamomile also good for support the liver’s health and it has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Jujube date (ziziphus jujuba)
Having been cultivated in China for more than 4000 years, jujube is an interesting fruit containing a wide range of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. The Chinese use it to treat anemia, but for people suffering from insomnia or restlessness, consuming the seeds or extract of the jujube fruit can also be a good remedy. The soothing nature of the organic compounds contained in this beneficial fruit can calm the body and mind. So if you find yourself unable to sleep at night, perhaps a small jujube decoction together with the seed is exactly what you need!