Our most loyal followers will know by now how much we obsess over sleep here at helmii. Well, there’s something else we obsess about that comes a pretty close second, and that’s…food! Arguably the two things you need alongside a sprinkling of love (it is the most romantic month of the year, after all) for complete happiness in life, right?
I think most of us aware of the big no-nos when it comes to pre-bedtime treats. Alcohol, caffeine, overly spicy or fatty foods are going to send your digestive system into overdrive and most likely lead to a pretty restless night. So what should we be eating to aid that drift off into the land of slumber?...
It’s a favourite childhood bedtime drink for many of us – and with good reason it turns out! Milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan which, when released into the brain, produces serotonin – a calming neurotransmitter – helping to create that warm, drowsy feeling. Add a touch of cinnamon powder to spice it up a little, as cinnamon is known to aid digestive issues and cramping; two common sleep disturbers.
If milk isn’t your bag, a cup of stress-busting chamomile tea, known to increase levels of glycine in your body, is also likely to do the trick. What’s glycine you ask? Well, this is a chemical known to relax nerves and muscles – and acts as a mild sedative to boot. Adding a dash of honey which is packed with natural sugars, will slightly raise insulin levels in the body and allow the tryptophan (see above!) to get into the brain more easily, according to nutritionist Lindsey Duncan at www.DrOz.com.
Another Australian study found that a cup of passionfruit tea around an hour before bed also helped people sleep better. This is because something called Harman alkaloids—chemicals found in abundance in this flower—reacts with your nervous system to make you tired. Brilliant!
Researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester found that super tart cherries naturally boost levels of melatonin in the body. But what does this have to do with sleep? Melatonin is a hormone released by the brain which helps to set your natural body clock, to control when you fall asleep and wake up. People taking part in the research who drank a glass of cherry juice before bed experienced some improvement in their insomnia symptoms.
Magnesium is a key mineral needed for decent quality sleep – and stronger bones – so eating a handful of almonds or pumpkin seeds before bed will help and ensure you stay asleep for longer, according to a study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. Magnesium works to relax your muscles so it can also help with general aches and pains.
It might sound bonkers to end the day with a food you’d normally start with but trust us on this one. The carbohydrates found in most cereals will hasten sleep by making tryptophan more available to the brain which means that carbs – combined with that all-important calcium from the milk – is actually a perfect pre-bedtime ‘mini meal’.
Cheese and Biscuits
Do you remember your grandma telling you that eating cheese before bed would give you nightmares? Well that was a load of old nonsense! Calcium – found in all dairy products including cheese – helps the brain produce our good friend tryptophan (the star of the sleep show so far it would seem!) which we now know helps the brain to secrete slumber-loving melatonin. And the carbohydrates from a couple of biscuits or crackers will also work their sleepy magic..
Tryptophan makes yet another appearance here as chickpeas are packed full of it – which is why a couple of spoonfuls with dinner could go a long way to a better night’s sleep.
Now you might normally associate bananas with an energy boost but they are also rich in magnesium which relaxes muscles and contain serotonin and melatonin which we now know aid good sleep.
Below it or not, the humble lettuce leaf contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties, so a little side salad with dinner is definitely a sleep winner.
Our bodies need vitamin B6 to make melatonin and serotonin and fish such as tuna, halibut, and salmon contain high levels of this. Garlic and pistachio nuts are also two Vitamin B6 superfoods. Prawns and lobster are also a great source of tryptophan.
But not just any old rice! Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a meal that included jasmine rice fell asleep faster than when they ate other rice types. White rice has a very high glycaemic index which means that eating it will reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, according to this study.
As well as being yet another food rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids which promote sleep-inducing melatonin, oats encourages insulin production and naturally raise blood sugar. A bowl of oats made with milk, banana, honey and almonds is a gorgeously warming supper option.
Now if you’re fast enough, you can pop all of the above ideas into your @instashop_app and have a whole basket full of sleep-inducing superheroes delivered before bedtime tonight. Go on, what are you waiting for? Sweet dreams!
[Sources: Sammy Margo, The Good Sleep Guide; The National Sleep Foundation; www.healthline.com; www.DrOz.com].