Today I’m sharing 5 key nutrients to include in your diet to help you get a good night’s sleep! With our hectic fast-paced lifestyles nowadays, more and more people struggle to get a sufficient amount of sleep.
A lack of sleep can directly affect our physical and mental health, energy levels, hormones, weight, memory and creativity. The good news is that food you consume during the day has the potential to impact the quality of your sleep, so it’s time to evaluate the effect your daily diet could have on your sleep pattern…
Melatonin is a hormone which makes you tired at nighttime and is released in both the brain and the gut, so supporting a healthy digestive system is essential. Foods rich in fibre, such as whole grains, oats and beans, are broken down slowly so do not cause blood sugar levels to spike which could lower melatonin. As a population, we are largely failing to consume enough fibre, and should aim for 25 grams per day – so be sure to try my Creamy Coconut Porridge or Cinnamon Chia Oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow to kickstart your day with a boost of fibre!
Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps to boost the sleep-hormones serotonin and melatonin. It is found in protein-rich foods, including tofu, nuts, eggs, chickpeas, lentils (try my Indian Lentil Dahl!) and fish (especially tuna, halibut and salmon) and chickpeas (so try my Hummus recipe here!). It’s best to consume it later in the day, given its ability to promote a good night’s sleep.
Calcium works together with tryptophan to make serotonin, and research has shown that being deficient in this mineral could make it harder to fall asleep and to reach deep sleep cycles. While milk is the most well-known source of calcium, there are plenty of dairy-free sources, including sesame seeds, bony fish, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium can help us relax and is important for normal adrenal and psychological function, as well as for muscles and nerves. Good sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens (like spinach and kale), legumes, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds (you’ll love this Quinoa, Almond & Pumpkin Seed Brittle!). I’ve also recently started taking the Link Nutriton ‘Night’ supplement which contains a substantial dose of magnesium.
5. B vitamins
A combination of B Vitamins work to enhance your sleep by regulating the level of tryptophan in our bodies. For example, we need Vitamin B6 in order to make serotonin (the sleep-inducing hormone) from tryptophan. Dietary sources of Vitamin B6 include fish, beef, turkey, eggs, chickpeas and bananas.
Foods to avoid
It goes without saying that sugar, alcohol and caffeine all wreak havoc on our body’s circadian rhythm, which is the natural sleep-wake cycle. Excess consumption of these stimulants – or any consumption at all to an extent – may inhibit the sleep-inducing chemicals being released in the brain, so can result in restlessness and shallow sleep, while making you more likely to wake up during the night. Did you know that caffeine stays in the body for up to six hours? So that afternoon coffee could leave you tossing and turning. Swap it for this caffeine-free Golden Milk recipe instead!
Top Tip: Bedtime Routine
Develop a bedtime ritual to help you unwind in the evenings – this could include a warm bath, reading a book in bed, listening to a podcast and sipping on some soothing chamomile tea. Try to avoid all screens for at least one hour before bed. I know this is easier said than done – I struggle to resist a late night Instagram scroll or an episode on Netflix, but the blue light that these devices emit suppresses melatonin production so disrupts your sleep rhythm.
I’d love to hear if you try any of the tips above! Let me know how you get along adding these into your diet, on Instagram @elibrechernutrition