How To Eat Right, and Sleep Tight
Anyone who’s had trouble sleeping will be familiar with the boring tip to drink chamomile tea before bed. And we all know (and some of us actually follow) the advice to banish our blue-light emitting screens from our bedside. But what if you could lay the foundations of better sleep during your day, instead of just in your wind-down time? Well, by making slightly more educated choices about the food we eat, it’s possible. While it’s common knowledge we shouldn’t really be drinking caffeine after 4pm, or having a super-sugary dessert too close to bedtime, there’s plenty more you can do with regards to diet.
Rather than setting rules about what we can’t eat, we’re far more in favour of establishing some great choices we can eat in order to get a little more zZz. So we’ve come up with sleep-promoting foods for three scenarios – from your evening meal to your late-night snack, plus handy stress busters to eat after a busy day.
Oh, and did we mention, carbs are definitely on the menu...
Dining for a restful sleep
When it comes to your evening meal, carbs are definitely on the menu. We aren’t talking about a plate of chips or ordering in that late-night Dominos (sadly), but complex carbs, such as sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa and whole-grain pastas are all a great shout when it comes to maximising your 8 hours. That’s because they release their energy more slowly throughout the night, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Plus, they produce a much slower rise in glucose levels – meaning we won’t experience the high and the ‘carb crash’ associated with simple carbohydrates – which can sometimes wake us up.
We are often told not to eat too late for fear of disrupting our cortisol levels – causing them to spike and wake us up in the night. However, going to bed hungry is an equally surefire route to interrupted sleep. If your stomach is starting to growl at 9pm, grab yourself a bowl of something full of slow-release carbs. Porridge is great, as is cereal. If you really want to maximise the benefits, ensure there’s plenty of protein involved, too. Protein helps to build tryptophan, which your body turns into niacin, which in turn plays a role in creating serotonin – a key neurotransmitter associated with our sleep/wake cycle. The ideal pre-bed snack is something like peanut butter on toast, or cheese and crackers (although the latter may give you some whacky dreams).
Eating for stressful days
If we’ve had a stressful day at work, we’ll probably still have an excess of adrenaline when it’s time to go to bed – which is why it can be super-hard to switch off, no matter how tired our body feels. To reduce some of that surging adrenaline, seek out magnesium-rich foods – it plays an important role in the de-activation of adrenaline. So, even though all you really want to eat after a tiring day is a big bowl of pasta, consider a dinner rich in leafy greens, peas, beans and high-fibre whole grains instead – all of which are packed full of magnesium.