Sleepers – foods to help induce sleep
Did you know what you or your child eats and drink leading up to bedtime can either hinder or actively help your sleep?
So what should you be adding to your weekly shopping basket and what should you leave on the supermarket shelf? And what foods make a great bedtime snack?
“Sleepers” are tryptophan-containing foods.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that our body uses to make serotonin; the neurotransmitter that slows down nerve traffic to help calm the brain. Serotonin is also the precursor to the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. In fact several studies have shown that increasing tryptophan in your diet can improve your levels of melatonin leading to a positive impact on your sleep.
Many foods high in lean protein such as chicken and turkey, eggs, fish, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, and cottage cheese are high in tryptophan and are good “sleeper” foods.
Research also suggests that combining tryptophan rich foods with complex carbohydrates will help the body get the most benefits from tryptophan. It is best to combine your tryptophan foods with complex carbs such as brown rice, oat cakes, whole grain bread, quinoa, brown pasta, buckwheat or whole-wheat crackers.
Cherries are one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin. Just a handful of delicious cherries will help promote sleep. Research has shown nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios are also a good source of melatonin, helping to increase our circulating melatonin.
Bananas can also help promote sleep as they contain the natural muscle-relaxants magnesium and potassium; also good for cardiovascular health and cognitive functioning.
Sweet potatoes are a sleeper’s dream. Not only do they provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates, they also contain muscle-relaxant potassium. Other good sources of potassium include regular potatoes (baked and keep the skin on), lima beans, and papaya.
Wakers – foods that inhibit sleep
“Wakers” are foods that stimulate neurochemicals that perk up the brain such as sugar.
Sugary snacks or drink at bedtime will not only give your child a boost of energy hindering them from falling asleep but research has also shown them to be a cause of nightmares.
Typical fizzy drinks contain citrus as well as sodium benzoate and other chemicals which can aggravate the gastrointestinal tract and promote acid reflux, not a recipe for a good night’s sleep.
Caffeine has a half-life of 5-7 hours so aim to avoid any caffeinated drinks or food no later than midday. Tea, coffee, chocolate and coca cola can profoundly disrupt night time sleep and delay bedtime. Instead try having a calming herbal tea like Chamomile or Fennel tea.