We all need our sleep. It’s a fact. Because there’s a lot more to a great night’s sleep than the benefits of beauty, let me tell you!
Sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of physical and mental repercussions, from obesity and heart disease to anxiety and depression. So it should come as no surprise that, in this fast-paced, stressful world, as a society we’ve never slept worse.
There are lots of ways to ensure a better night’s sleep. Paying attention to what the experts say is one – and you’ll find handy tips to improve your sleep on The Sleep Advisor website. Practising mindfulness is another and whether it’s doing a guided meditation before bed or simply relaxing your body and mind with a nice bath before you settle down, this can work wonders for your sleep cycle.
And since the food we eat is basically fuel for the body, there are certain foods we can try to help it shut down when it needs to.
Foods to help you sleep
It may sound counter-intuitive – aren’t bananas supposed to give us energy? Well yes, that’s true…but they’re also a source of magnesium and vitamin B6, both of which promote feelings of happiness and calm. Plus, alongside magnesium, the potassium that stars in a banana’s make-up is actually a muscle relaxant – so chowing down on a bedtime banana can actually make you feel calmer and physically relaxed. Bonus.
The next superfruit of the bowl is New Zealand’s finest export. Nope, I don’t mean the delicious rugby team – I mean the humble kiwi. It packs a powerful protein punch for something so cute and furry. And researchers in Taiwan found that eating a kiwi – or even better, two kiwis – an hour before bedtime increases the chance of a good night’s sleep. Something about the high levels of serotonin and anti-oxidants, I’m sure they know what they’re talking about!
With muscle-relaxing magnesium and calm-producing serotonin, this is one nut you should – ahem – go nuts for. Sorry. Have a handful before bedtime to ward off any night time cravings or, for something a bit more substantial, spread a dollop of almond butter on a piece of wholegrain toast. Mmm.
4. Sweet potatoes
For another tummy filler that won’t keep you awake all night, include some sweet potatoes in your evening meal. Their complex carbohydrates keep you fuller for longer and prevent a rumbling tummy from disturbing your snooze fest. Oh, and they have potassium in them, too. Your dreams will never be sweeter.
Tip: Try making sweet potato wedges with tahini on its own, or hummus made with tahini. The sesame seeds within it contain tryptophan, an amino acid that’s linked with aiding sleep. It takes an hour or so to kick in though, so enjoy it as an early evening snack or as part of your dinner rather than dipping in before bedtime.
Turmeric has been proved as having a whole heap of benefits. In terms of helping you sleep, it reduces your blood-sugar levels, it boosts your immune system and it eases your digestive system. All of these things can prevent you from falling into a deeper slumber so turmeric kindly removes these obstacles from your path to Snoozeville.
Tip: Add a helping of ground turmeric to your evening meal or stir a teaspoon into some hot milk of your choice. Add half a teaspoon of ginger and sprinkle with cinnamon – they call it ‘Golden Milk’ in India; I like to think of it as a hug for your insides!
Dairy products are rich in calcium. And research suggests that being calcium deficient may make it hard to fall asleep. So having a yummy yoghurt before bed can actually improve your sleep – good news all round.
Now, I’m not giving you an excuse to have 10 bowls of ice-cream with that Netflix series you’re binge watching. Because sugar isn’t known as the most relaxing thing in the world! And lay off the cheese while you’re at it. It may not have been proven as a nightmare enhancer but it can lead to heartburn, indigestion and other unwelcome bed companions.
So stick to yoghurt instead, or if you’re not a fan of dairy, try other calcium-rich foods, like dark leafy greens.
Tuck in and get tuckered out
Next time you’re reaching for a bedtime snack, avoid the coffee and biscuits and whip up a turmeric latte with almond butter toast instead. Sounds like too much effort? Have a banana!
Trust me, you’ll be glad you did come morning.