The bliss of sleep is a luxury not all of us can obtain. Insomnia, mental health issues and anxiety can all impact how easily we fall asleep – but what we eat can have just as much effect.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that diet significantly influenced sleep quality. A diet high in sugar, especially close to bedtime was associated with fewer hours of sleep and frequent disturbances. “A single day of greater fat intake and lower fibre could influence sleep parameters,” said principal investigator Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, assistant professor in the department of medicine and Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center.
“This study emphasises the fact that diet and sleep are interwoven in the fabric of a healthy lifestyle,” American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Nathaniel Watson says. “For optimal health it is important to make lifestyle choices that promote healthy sleep, such as eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.”
The study, conducted on 26 adults, 13 men and 13 women who were of an average age of 35, spent 9 hours in bed from 10pm to 7am – with an average of 7 hours and 35 minutes per night. “The finding that diet can influence sleep has tremendous health implications, given the increasing recognition of the role of sleep in the development of chronic disorders such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
The study found that when participants were given a meal put together by a nutritionist – lower in sugar and higher in protein, than their self-made meals, it promoted a much faster and significantly less disrupted road to sleep.
What can you eat to promote better sleep?
Tart cherries (not maraschino) are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, the hormone that helps your body sleep, and is responsible for regulating the body’s internal clock. Researchers believe that their potency is due to a combination of melatonin and anthocyanin, which assists the sleep-wake cycle.
Not only does drinking hot beverages help lull us to sleep, but chamomile in particular contains the chemical glycine, which acts to assist in our body’s natural relaxation process – almost with a mild sedative effect.
High in magnesium, almonds can assist in muscle relaxation. The mineral can help ease symptoms of restless legs and sleeping difficulty, and when taken alongside a magnesium supplement can make a huge change to sleeping patterns. Eating almonds throughout the day, or a small handful a few hours before bed can be beneficial to helping the body prepare for bed.
Chickpeas, Buckwheat, Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds
All these foods contain adequate levels of tryptophan – an essential amino acid needed for growth and the production of niacin, creating a release of serotonin in the body helping to induce restfulness and relaxation.
Need a little something extra? Why not try Yoga for Insomnia?