The right food can definitely help get you in the mood for sleep whilst the wrong food can have you tossing and turning and uncomfortable in bed.
What you eat and drink in the hours before bedtime is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep. Certain foods are known to calm the brain and help promote sleep – in exactly the same way that caffeine is known to disrupt it.
While we don’t recommend eating a big meal just before bedtime as it can lead to discomfort and indigestion, some people find a small snack a helpful aid to sleep.
Here are our top foods to enjoy and avoid when you want to get a good night’s kip.
Go for it:
• Dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and cheese (yes!!) – 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 – 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.
Steer clear of:
• Fatty food. The fat stimulated acid production in the stomach leading to heartburn and indigestion.
• Alcohol – tempting as it is to unwind before bed with a glass of your favourite tipple, you won’t be doing yourselves any sleep favours. While it might help you nod off initially, alcohol is disruptive to the later stages of sleep, which are important to memory and motor skills.
• Chocolate – Even if you know to avoid coffee and strong tea, you might be sabotaging your sleep with sneakier sources of caffeine, like chocolate. Dark chocolate, in particular, can pack a significant punch. If you like to nibble on a square or two for dessert, you’ll probably be fine but an entire chocolate bar could have just as much caffeine as a fizzy drink.
• Steak – protein presents a particular digestion problem, since it’s harder to break down than other nutrients. Avoid meat-heavy meals and stick to turkey which contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to promote sleep.
• Spicy food – a well-known trigger for heartburn. Research also found that it brought about a change in body temperature which can confuse the brain, as core temperature naturally dips as bedtime approaches.
• Grapefruit – citrus fruits like grapefruits increase the stomach’s acidity causing heartburn and keeping you up at night.
• Coffee – we probably don’t have to explain why you shouldn’t reach for an espresso at 10pm. But, turns out, your afternoon coffee habit can affect you for longer than you’d expect. In fact, that caffeine can remain in your system for hours, making even a 4pm pick-me-up a bad idea.