Good sleep for good health
Sleep is considered to be one of the four pillars of health, along with nutrition, exercise and stress management. Yet many of us willingly sacrifice a good night’s sleep for work, TV, socialising or social media. Recent surveys have also revealed that one in three adults in the UK suffer from insomnia. However by following some nutritional and lifestyle recommendations you can improve the quality of your sleep. Nutritional therapist Tracy Tredoux is a firm believer that nutrition and lifestyle changes can boost body and soul. Are you a poor sleeper? It could be that you’re not eating the right food, Tracy explains.
Why we sleep
It may feel as If we completely shut down while we sleep, but many processes are taking place in the brain body. Sleep is time to repair and regenerate. Information and events are processed and stored in the brain forming long-term memories. Hormones are created and regulated, toxins are broken down and eliminated.
We don’t all need the same amount of sleep but consensus among the experts is that between seven and seven-and-a-half hours is the minimum needed per night for our bodies to perform these tasks. Short-term sleep loss leads to memory issues, moodiness, irritability and poor concentration. In the long term, sleep deficiency is linked to a wide range of illnesses including cardiovascular disease hypertension, type 2 diabetes and dementia.
Eating for sleep
Eating the right foods at the right times can make the difference between a restful night and hours of tossing and turning including high-quality protein and fats in each meal and swapping refined carbs for complex one will help keep your blood sugar level balanced. The following nutrients have also been found to help induce sleep:
- Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, which aid relaxation and sleep. Its found in high protein foods e.g. eggs, dairy poultry and meat, bananas broccoli and spinach asparagus seafood legumes grains, soya beans and nuts and seed.
- Vitamin b6 – avocados, beans, banasa, seeds, fish, meat = converts tryptophan into the sleep hormone melatonin.
- Magnesium – leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, bananas, dark chocolate, fish, figs, yoghurt-y increases gaba, a brain chemical that promotes relaxation.
- Calcium – leafy greens, diary products, sardines, pilchards, broccoli, sugar snaps, sesame seeds, okra, rocket, sweet potato, chia seeds, almonds, dried figs, sunflower seeds, kale – helps the brain make melatonin.
- Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle – nuts and seeds, cherries, pomegranate, olie and oats.
Combining a range of these foods will provide you with a nutritious sleep inducing meal or snack.
- Handful of nuts and seeds with some olives
- Oat biscuits with a piece of cheese, humous, nut butter or mashed avocado, and a fig or a few grapes on the side
- Oat cracker with nut spread, topped with banana
- Half a sweet potato with goats cheese
- Egg scrambled or poached on a slice of wholegrain bread topped with rocket
- Turkey or chicken sandwich on whole grain bread topped with rocket
- Egg and avocado and organic smoked salmon
- Cottage cheese topped with raspberries cherries or grapes or of wholegrain bread with salmon
- Kale chips
- Cherry juice, warm milk, herbal tea
Practicing good sleep hygiene
- Reserve your bedroom for sleep – never work or watch tv in bed
- Make your room completely dark and quiet at night
- Keep the temperature right – not too hot or cold
- Avoid activities such as replying to emails, surfing the web, watching TV an hour before sleep
- Create your own bedtime routine every evening – warm bath, reading, listening to music, writing a journal & try go to bed at the same time every night
- Switch phones laptops and other devices to night mode to block out blue night
- Have your last meal around 3 hours before you go to bed
- Limit stimulants like coffee, sugar and alcohol
- Add epsom salt and lavender oil to your bath to relax and calm you
- Take a magnesium supplement in the evening to relax muscles and nervous system
- Write down anxieties or concerns before you go to bed adding a few notes about what to do about them
Want to build healthier habits? Check out our how-to guide here.