Confession time! I am a TERRIBLE sleeper!
So many factors effect me when it comes to getting a bit of shut-eye so when I got asked about food and sleep on Ask the Nutritionist With Olivia Louise Taylor, I knew that I had to do a blog post about it!
First things first… how much sleep should we be getting?
We have all heard that we need 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per day, but why?
When we sleep, we are essentially giving our bodies time to relax and rebuild. In a study done in 2003, participants were monitored after having 4, 6 or 8 hours sleep per night for 14 days. After the experiment, it was found that the people who slept for only 4 or 6 hours had a dramatic difference in their memory recall, motor skills and thought processes. Sleep is also important for lowering our stress levels, which in turn helps us to regulate the hormones who control our hunger levels. Studies have found that people who do not get enough sleep, usually have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) because their levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone) are higher.
And then there are the common sense reasons why we need to get more sleep… we are less grumpy, we can focus better and getting out of bed in the morning is a lot easier!
What foods should we be eating to get a better sleep?
This is a little about food as well as a little bit on when we should be eating it.
ONE :: Cutting Down on the Caffeine.
Caffeine isn’t just in coffee. It is also found in chocolate, many sodas and tea. If you are sensitive to caffeine, then even small amounts will effect your quality of sleep. Ways to cut down is to limit yourself to one cup of coffee in the morning and have a cup of herbal tea before bed. Chamomile is great because it is free on caffeine and very calming.
TWO :: A High Carbohydrate Snack Before Bed.
Having a snack before bed can boost your serotonin levels, which are essential for having a good night’s sleep. Serotonin is the hormone that we need, but in order to produce it, we need an amino acid called tryptophan. Some foods that help with serotonin production are:
- Nuts and Seeds
- Turkey (no wonder we all sleep so well after Thanks Giving)
Now here is the tricky bit.. we need to combine the tryptophan rich foods with carbs in order to get the serotonin production. Some good snacks are:
- Cheese and crackers
- Turkey and cheese roll up
- Small handful of walnuts
- Banana smoothie
- A small bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk
- Please note: Please note that these snacks need to be small as a heavy meal can disturb sleep.
THREE :: Have a Regular Sleep Cycle
I know that life gets busy but having a regular time that you go to sleep and wake up makes it a lot easier to get your sleep. If you do have trouble going to bed, use your phone and set an alarm to remind you to go to bed.
FOUR :: Have a Bed Time Routine.
Before you go to sleep, have a routine. Dim the lights an hour before sleep, make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature (if it is too hot, it disturbs your sleep) and make sure to stop looking at all those electronic devices! The blue light from our iPhones has been found to decrease our levels of sleep hormone. Another important thing is having a dark room as too much light can also be distributive.
Before bed, I really like having a cup of tea and reading a book before bed, and that helps me to wind down. Meditation is also great for helping to relax before you go to sleep.
FIVE :: If you do Wake Up in the Night..
If you wake up and then are tossing and turning, watching the clock then get out of bed! Easier said then done but sometimes laying in bed makes it harder to get back to sleep. Once out of bed, do a calming activity to relax your mind, this can be:
- Standing outside in the cold. Sometimes we wake up because we are too hot, so getting some cold, fresh air can cool us off and allow us to sleep again.
- Turn on a small light and do some reading.
- Have a warm drink. Milk and honey or camomile tea are my go-tos.
- Have a small snack from the list above.
- Meditate for five minutes to relax.
I really hope that this helps you if you are someone who struggles with sleep. If the problem does persist, make sure to talk to your doctor as it might be a more serious issue like sleep apnea.
Have a great week,