Eat Better, Sleep Better

The food you eat could be messing up your sleep.

There are certain foods which are good to eat before sleep, and some which should be swerved. Avoiding caffeine and sugar in the evenings goes without saying, but high fat foods, too much spice and too much liquid in an evening can also make it harder to sleep.


It’s all about Tryptophans…

Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps us make the Serotonin and Melatonin needed for sleep (the brain’s calming hormones). So how do we give our brain the tryptophan it needs for sleep? Eating foods high in tryptophan before bed and avoiding the foods which are for sleep is a really good start.


Sleep Friendly Foods

Meat

Turkey, chicken, red meat, fish

Veggie

Dairy, eggs, honey, dark chocolate

Vegan

Chickpeas, soy, leafy green vegetables, bananas, beans, lentils, almonds, nuts and seeds, potatoes, oats. 

* All these foods should be eaten alongside carbohydrates (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread), as these help to drive tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier. Don’t go overboard with the carbs though, as carbs can affect the amount of deep sleep you get. And try eating any large meal around 4 hours before bed.

* Remember the above foods do not mean processed foods! Cook fresh.


Be A Herbalist

Instead of spending money on Pharmaceutical products full of chemicals, invest in some herbal remedies and get the added health benefits.

Chamomile

A plant which is used as a tranquilizer. It’s prepared as a tea and is readily available in shops. Evidence suggests it improves sleep quality. It’s calming effects could be due to an antioxidant called Apigenin.

Spearmint

Look for a tea or brew leaves. Spearmint promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Spearmint also improves memory and concentration, pain relief, inflammation and fever, amongst other things.

Gotu Kola

This herb is an Ayurvedic medicine which is thought to cause drowsiness. It contains Antioxidants, has anti-anxiety effects and has been found to reduce inflammation in rats. It’s thought to boost cognitive function and could even help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Lavender Oil

Lavender is a plant, it’s scent is thought to help with sleep. It comes as an oil. Studies suggest it’s more effective when used in an aromatherapy massage. The evidence is there though, it’s been found to reduce stress hormones in saliva samples.

Kava

Kava is another plant that has been linked to sleep in some studies. It originates from the South Pacific islands and its root is drank as a tea. You can also buy supplements.

Studies have shown it to be safe for use, but if you’re buying Kava, be careful to use a certified supplier, as severe liver damage has occurred in some cases. This is likely due to low quality and dishonest production.

Valerian Root

Valerian is an herb native to Asia and Europe. You can buy it as capsules or in root form. It increases GABA levels, with effects similar to Diazepam.

Don’t use Valerian root if you have a liver condition. And use in moderation, there have been some serious cases of illness with abuse of this herb. As valerian root is thought to cause drowsiness, you shouldn’t use it alongside 5-HTP, chamomilegotu kola, kavamelatonin supplements, St. John’s wort, basically anything else which causes drowsiness.


Supplements

Magnesium

Ditch the sleeping pills. Magnesium is a mineral found in the human body. It helps our brain and heart function properly. It also relaxes us and regulates the production of Melatonin (hormone involved in the sleep cycle) and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).

If you don’t want to take supplements, eat foods high in fiber for Magnesium.
Leafy greens, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

5-HTP

Lowered levels of Serotonin (a hormone) can cause problems with sleep and insomnia. 5-HTP is a natural precursor to serotonin. Our body creates it naturally from tryptophan, but we can also buy it in tablet form.


It’s important to remember that the reasons for poor sleep can sometimes be complex, getting the right diet might just be part of the problem. Read Counting Sheep for more sleep discussion.

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