Sleep is one of the most important pillars of our health. Improved mental function, restored immune system, improved mood, regulated blood sugar, and a healthy heart are just some of the benefits of getting a good night’s shut eye.
So, what can you do to improve your chances of sleeping like a baby? Research has indicated that the food and drink you consume before bedtime can influence how well you sleep. Ready get the low-down on sleep-inducing foods? Here they are!
5 COMMON FOODS TO INDUCE SLEEP AND WHY THEY’RE SO EFFECTIVE
Some foods and drinks contain sleep-regulating hormones and brain chemicals, such as melatonin and serotonin, which can improve sleep quality. Here are some of our favourites!
#1: Herbal teas – we love Chamomile or Passonflower tea
Chamomile tea contains an antioxidant called ‘apigenin’ which promotes relaxation, sleepiness and reduces insomnia. Passionflower tea is rich in ‘flavones’ – an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, boosting immune health and reducing heart disease risk. There is also evidence that Passionflower promotes calmness and inhibits the brain chemicals that induce stress. This makes both teas beneficial drinks to stimulate sleep!
#2: Kiwi fruit – a true super food!
Kiwi fruit is said to be a modern-day super food, packed with vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium and trace minerals. Rich with antioxidant properties and a high concentration of serotonin, a kiwi or two before bed is said to be one the best foods to stimulate sleep. This is evidenced by a recent study which saw participants fall asleep 42% faster after consuming 2 kiwifruits before bed. Give it a go!
#3: Fatty fish – think tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel
Brimming with omega-3 fatty acids and rich in vitamin D, fatty fish protects against heart disease, boosts brain health and enhances sleep quality, stimulating the production of serotonin. Ready to fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply? Then try eating a small amount of fatty fish before bed!
#4: Nuts – specifically walnuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews
Nuts contain melatonin in various amounts, as well as essential minerals like magnesium and zinc. This combination has proven to mitigate against insomnia and help adults to sleep better. However, one of the most effective nuts to stimulate sleep quality is the humble walnut due to its rich source of melatonin and healthy fats. A small handful before bed should do the trick!
#5: Dairy products – the adage of warm milk before bed is true!
Containing tryptophan, dairy products such as a glass of milk, plain yoghurt or cottage cheese has shown to improve sleep quality, especially when coupled with light exercise. FUN FACT: Did you know that if cows are milked at night, their milk has more melatonin! True! Milk already contains melatonin, but some milk products may be more effective than others in providing a sleep-inducing response.
OTHER USEFUL TIPS TO HELP YOU SLEEP MORE SOUNDLY
If getting to sleep is difficult for you, here are some helpful tips to help you fall asleep faster:
- Limit the caffeine you have during the day, especially right before bed. This includes coffee, energy drinks, sodas and even chocolate beverages.
- Concentrate on your breath. A breathing technique such as the 4-7-8 breathing method may help you fall asleep (breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and breathe out for 8 counts, then repeat).
- Expose your body to bright light during the day, and dim light at night to stimulate a conventional circadian rhythm. This includes not using any devices that shine bright artificial light, at least a few hours before bed.
- Get active during the day to increase the duration and quality of your sleep and reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the brain.
- Lower the temperature in your room. A warm room can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Try setting your aircon between 16 to 20 degrees C and see what happens!
- Eat wholesome, nutritious food that comprises mostly veggies and fruit. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals that promote sleep. For example, the Mediterranean Diet has been linked with better sleep quality as well as improved heart health.