There is so much in the media about nutrition and weight loss but the link between sleep and diet is often overlooked. Poor diet often leads to poor sleep and poor sleep often leads to poor food choices – it’s a vicious cycle. However, there are some small changes which can help promote sleep in both adults and children. Hannah Bailey from Wise Choice Nutrition looks at how you can improve your ‘sleep diet’…
“If night waking is a problem, sometimes it can be down to hunger. Typically, if an adult is waking around 3-4am, blood sugar has dropped which causes you to wake up and although you might not feel hungry, you may be. To ensure blood sugar is more balanced, try adding plenty of protein such as meat, fish or eggs to dinner and go easy on the processed carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice.
“Other foods that help you sleep include carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes and other more starchy vegetables like carrots, parsnips and butternut squash. It can also be beneficial to have a pre bed snack (about one hour before going to bed) such as berries and full fat yoghurt, cold cooked meat or a boiled egg which are all high in protein and help to prevent blood sugar dropping too low overnight.
“Avoiding sugary snacks such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate, ice cream and fizzy drinks after school and in the evening. Chocolate and fizzy drinks contain caffeine along with tea and coffee which makes it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Sugary foods increase energy for a short time and raise blood sugars which then leads to a quick drop later. At that point, hunger kicks in.”
If you’ve had a sleepless night, here are my top tips for a good sleep diet:
• Try to avoid drinking more than two to three cups of caffeine and ideally consume them before 2pm to allow the caffeine to leave your system. If you enjoy hot drinks in an evening, switch to a chamomile or other herbal tea that is caffeine free. Avoiding caffeine for children is recommended not just for sleep but overall health.
• Eat three meals rather than snacking all through the day and add plenty of protein and fat such as avocado, oily fish like salmon and use butter or coconut oil to cook in. If you’re really craving carbohydrates and sugar, try a piece of fruit, two squares of dark chocolate or some berries and full fat yoghurt. You could blend the berries with the yoghurt and some milk to make a smoothie too.
• Drink plenty of water, often if we’re dehydrated, we feel tired and lethargic. Your urine should be a pale straw colour. Try to drink the water throughout the day rather than just in an evening which could disturb sleep later.
• A magnesium supplement can help with promoting sleep too but check with a qualified health professional such as your GP or pharmacist before taking supplements.
For more help and advice, visit Hannah’s Facebook page