Eat your way to a better night’s sleep
We have a natural sleep and waking patterns, called circadian rhythms. These happen naturally and generally coincide with the sunrise and sunset.
Our bodies produce hormones called cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (sleepy hormone), which dictate our rhythms.
In the morning, we’re woken up by cortisol which is produced to increase our alertness and prepare us for the day, and in the latter half of the day, our melatonin rises to send us off to sleep.
It’s essential to keep your circadian rhythms regular, and the following tips can help with this:
- Try not to go to bed too hungry or too full. Aim to eat your evening meal 2-3 hours before bed and ensure this is balanced with vegetables, whole grains and protein, so you’re not peckish when you go to bed. If you eat too close to bedtime, you may feel uncomfortable or even get reflux when you lay down to sleep.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine naturally increases our stress hormone cortisol, which is a good thing in the morning when we want to wake up before work, but not a good thing in the afternoon as it’ll impact your ability to fall asleep. Try to have your last coffee before 2 pm, and opt for decaf coffee or herbal teas for the rest of the day.
- Eat Tryptophan-containing foods. Tryptophan is an amino acid (protein building block) that improves your circadian rhythms by increasing melatonin production. Foods that have Tryptophan include turkey, whole milk, canned tuna, oats, cheese, nuts and seeds.
- Include foods containing a high level of healthy fats, namely “omega-3” fatty acids. These are the best kind of fats and are found in walnuts, seeds, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. Try adding tuna at lunchtime, a handful of nuts or seeds to your salads or snacks, and have salmon for dinner twice a week.
- Chamomile tea is a natural herbal remedy to help you fall asleep due to its sleepy antioxidant “Apigenin”. This component reduces insomnia and allows drinkers to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Enjoy 1-2 cups of camomile tea per day for this effect and time one of the cups for after dinner.