A good night’s sleep is often a challenge. We live in a fast paced World, and switching off at night can be tricky; it's all too easy to lie awake thinking and worrying, when all you want is to drift off into a peaceful night.
Whilst some people might reach for the sleeping pills, thankfully, there are some simple solutions to be found in your kitchen cupboard. So here’s a closer look at some natural ways to give your body the best possible chance of getting the rest and relaxation you need.
The Role of Diet in Sleep
Whatever you eat and drink during the day, will have a direct impact on the quality and duration of your sleep. Picking the right foods, and eliminating problem ones is especially important.
Pack in the Tryptophan
Foods rich in tryptophan are especially important. Tryptophan is converted by enzymes to an amino acid called L-tryptophan, which then produces the brain chemical serotonin. Adequate serotonin levels are absolutely essential if you want a good nights sleep; levels naturally rise as you approach bedtime, but certain foods can give this process a helping hand. Tryptophan is also a precursor of the hormone Melatonin which regulates the sleep / waking cycle.
Tryptophan rich foods - dairy, bananas, oat, honey, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses, brown rice, fish and poultry.
The Role of Calcium and Magnesium
Warm milk before bed is an old favourite for good reason! Not only is milk rich in tryptophan, but also calcium; both calcium and magnesium play an important role in your body’ ability to relax. If you suffer from night cramps and twitches, then these two vital nutrients may well need boosting.
Packing your diet with foods rich in calcium and magnesium, is a simple, but highly effective step. For supplements with natural balanced amounts of calcium and magnesium in a food state form (the very best way to supplement), see Chlorella
and Barley Grass
Foods rich in Calcium -
kale, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, kidney beans, lentils, blackstrap molasses, seaweeds, dried figs
Foods rich in Magnesium - wholegrains, bananas, avocados, almonds, dates, figs, spinach, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, squash, broccoli
Indulge in Some Late Night Carbs
Now we’re not advocating midnight feasts here, and too much food before bed will have the opposite of the desired effect! But, a small snack around an hour before bed is often helpful. Enjoying a carbohydrate rich nibble about an hour before bed (with some calcium for good measure) can also help boost those tryptophan levels, but make sure it’s not a sugary snack that will play havoc with your sugar levels. Some good examples would be a small piece of (real) bread
and cheese, dates, figs or a banana. Carbohydrates also stimulate insulin, which helps to clear other amino acids that compete with tryptophan,
If you find you get to sleep fairly well, but wake after just a few hours, this may be due to low blood sugar, and a late night snack will be particularly helpful for you. Moderation is key with this tactic however as you dont want your digestion working hard overnight.
B is for Bedtime
The B-complex may be part of the puzzle for some people. Specifically, some of the B vitamins play an essential role in the production of melatonin, but the whole B complex can play an important role in improving sleep. Coffee, alcohol and certain medications are just some factors that can increase the need for the B Vitamins. See Zell Oxygen Plus
for a food state, full B Complex.
Foods rich in B Vitamins - Wholegrains, yeast, legumes, nuts, asparagus, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, chickpeas, eggs, milk, mushrooms, oats, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, celery, cabbage, kale, cod, tuna, brown rice.
Work With Your Metabolism
Your main meal should be enjoyed at least two, and preferably four hours before bedtime. Try to get into a pattern with your meal times to give your body a natural rhythm to follow. Eating a large meal close to bedtime stimulates the metabolism and raises your body temperature, neither of which help your body get into sleep mode. Although it’s often not practical for families, it is best to have your largest meal during the day for lunch, and have lighter meals in the evenings. For someone suffering with insomnia, this can be a significant lifestyle change.
Keep caffeine to a minimum
Tea and coffee can play havoc with your sleep, so keep these to a minimum. No tea and coffee after lunch for example can really help matters. Caffeine affects the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma amino butyric) which is responsible for slowing down adrenaline in the evening.
Careful With the Nightcaps
Many people enjoy a small alcoholic drink in the evening, and although you may find it helps you to sleep, alcohol actually reduces the overall quality of sleep, so if you enjoy a relaxing tipple, make it a small one, a few hours before bedtime. All fluids should be kept to a minimum before bed to ensure you don’t have interrupted sleep due to bathroom trips.
Other Steps You can Take to Improve Your Sleep
Exercise will really help, but make sure you are not over active less than three hours before bedtime, Rebounding
is a superb exercise to include, suitable for all ages and with broad reaching health benefits
Create a relaxing bedtime routine, whether it’s a warm bath, relaxing candles, or soft music, find those things that get you in the right state of mind, and make sure you have some peace and quiet
Don’t watch TV in bed, try to make your bedroom a place of rest and nothing else, so that’s no eating or working in the bedroom either!
Don’t nap during the day
If you are struggling to sleep, tossing and turning is the worst thing you can do, get up, read a book or similar then try again