According to The Sleep Council, certain foods are known to aid sleep – in exactly the same way that caffeine is known to disrupt it. As well as sleeping on a good bed in a well ventilated, dark and quiet room, achieving a great night’s sleep can be affected by what you eat in the hours before bedtime.
Says Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council: “Certain foods are known to calm the brain and help promote sleep so eating the right things before bedtime is definitely part of the recipe for a good night’s kip.
“While we don’t recommend eating a big meal just before bedtime as it can lead to discomfort and indigestion, some people find a bedtime snack a helpful aid to sleep.
“The best is one that contains complex carbohydrates and protein and perhaps some calcium – which is why dairy products are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.”
Choosing the right ingredients was certainly the thinking behind chef Gurpareet Bains’ so-called’ biryawni’. He claims his lamb masala recipe has an insomnia-fighting effect thanks to the inclusion of an oil with intoxicating effects and nutmeg which contains a psychoactive substance that aids sleep.
Other foods known to aid restful sleep include:
• Dairy products such as yoghurt and milk – because calcium is effective in stress reduction and stabilisation of nerve fibres, including those in the brain.
• Green leafy vegetables such as cabbage and spinach are also rich in stress reducing calcium.
• Low sugar, whole grain cereals – complex, carbohydrate-rich foods increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream. Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make sleep-inducing serotonin and melatonin, the relaxing neurotransmitters that slow down nerve traffic and stop the brain buzzing.
• Bananas – an excellent source of magnesium and potassium which help relax overstressed muscles. They also contain all-important tryptophan to stimulate production of those key brain calming hormones.
• Almonds are another winner as they contain magnesium which promotes both sleep and muscle relaxation. They have the added benefit of supplying proteins which help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping and switch the body from alert adrenaline cycle to rest-and-digest mode.
• Most fish – it contains vitamin B6 which again encourages production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness. Chick peas similarly contain vitamin B6 and are again helpful in aiding restfulness.