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Foods That Help You Sleep

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A good night’s sleep changes literally everything - your mood, mind, energy level, immune system, way of thinking, productivity, waistline, hormone balance, sex drive, literally everything!   Poor sleep will raise stress so we've been looking at this for Stress Awareness Month. And sleep is one of those things so many struggle with; so when all you want is to drift off into a peaceful night here's some simple ideas to help you improve your sleep time.
 

You MUST Do This First

First things first, if you're struggling to sleep, you MUST turn off your phones, tablets and PCs an hour (or more) before bed.  The form of light these devices emit, and also the bombarding of information will makes things worse. For some people, this simple step is all you need for a better nights sleep. Bright lights also affect your carbohydrate digestion, so if you want to be slimmer, get darker! 

 

Pack in the Tryptophan

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 important.

Foods rich in tryptophan are especially important, these include dairy, oat, honey, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses, brown rice, fish and poultry so these are all good for your evening meal especially. 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.
 

Pack in the Fermented Foods

Your gut health directly affects your sleep. Improve the gut, improve your rest.  Your digestive system and 

circadian rhythm work together; so a disrupted digestion will mean disrupted sleep.  So lots and lots of fermented foods and probiotics will really help you sleep deeper and better.  See our extensive Fermented Foods article.

 

Vitamin C for Sweet Dreams

Clinical studies have shown that if you are low in vitamin C you will not sleep as deeply as you need to. So lots of vitamin C rich foods are so important, and do a lot for every single aspect of health.  And if you want to add more naturally, add the beautiful Acerola  Add SLEEPC and save 15% on this wonderful supplement. 

 

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 need boosting. Packing your diet with foods rich in calcium and magnesium, is a simple, but highly effective step. 

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
 

For supplements with natural and balanced calcium and magnesium in a food state form see Chlorella and Barley Grass.

 

Indulge in a Little Protein and 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 or two 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 tiny piece of (real) bread and cheese, dates, figs or a banana (go easy with bananas though - read more here).  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  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.
 

Try the Adrenal Cocktail

If you struggle sleeping, or if you wake in the early hours, this works for a lot of people.  Mix a little Celtic Salt, with some cream of tartar, and a little bit of vitamin C - so this could be a juice such as orange, or you could open a capsule or two of our food state vitamin C acerola, and then mix with warm water.  Take this about an hour before bed.  Those that are low in vitamin C are prone to waking more frequently
 

Light Sensitive?

Some people who really struggle with sleeping, are very sensitive to artificial light. If it is major problem for you, try experimenting with not using ANY artificial lighting when it gets dark. This would include not turning on any TVs or PCs. This can be successful.

 

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
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