Published Oct 10, 2020
Sleep allows our bodies to heal and rejuvenate. Too little of it, and we are not only tired, but our health suffers too. Many people either struggle to sleep or don’t get enough each night.
A lack of sleep has been linked to brain fog and fatigue, as well as a range of health issues, from diabetes and obesity to depression and anxiety, lowered immunity and even heart issues.
The recommended nightly amount of sleep varies, but most adults need between 7-8 hours a night to have a healthy mind and body.
Many factors can lead to a bad nights sleep:
- Stress, depression or anxiety
- A sleep-disrupting illness, such as heartburn
- Shift-based work
- Use of blue light-emitting devices near to bedtime
- The sleep environment – the comfort and darkness of the room
How to sleep better
The good news is that with some simple diet and lifestyle adjustments, sleep issues can easily be put to bed.
Our sleep is regulated by our natural sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. By making the following changes, you can get in sync with this cycle and achieve the sleep quantity and quality your body needs:
1. Eat more carbohydrates with dinner
Carbohydrates increase the body’s levels of tryptophan, a neurotransmitter that is important for sleep regulation. Studies show eating a higher carbohydrate meal a few hours before bedtime is an effective way to improve your sleep. If you are on a lower carbohydrate diet, try to save a significant portion of your carbohydrate allowance to have with your evening meal. Sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, bananas and oats are all healthy carbohydrate-rich sources.
2. Snack on almonds
Almonds may help to boost sleep quality. They are a great source of magnesium, which has a calming effect on the nervous system. This may explain its association with improvements in sleep quality and the ability to fall asleep.
3. Avoid or limit caffeine
Many people rely on caffeine to wake up in the morning, fight fatigue and stay alert. It can be found in foods and beverages like chocolate, coffee, tea and energy drinks.
While great for a quick mental boost, caffeine can have disastrous effects on your sleep. Your daily cup of coffee can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. When you do finally drift of, it may impact the deepness of your sleep.
The effects of caffeine vary from person to person, but ideally, it is advised to stop consuming caffeine at least six hours before bedtime.
4.Drink chamomile tea
Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in your brain that may be linked to sleepiness, reduced insomnia and generally improved sleep. A minimum of two cups per day is recommended to achieve noticeable benefits.
5. Eat tryptophan-rich foods
Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s believed to induce sleep. It is a precursor to the sleep-inducing brain chemical serotonin and may increase the production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Tryptophan is mostly found in high-protein foods.
Good sources include turkey, eggs and pumpkin seeds.
6. Keep a regular sleep routine
While sleeping until mid-day on a Sunday may be tempting, this large change to your usual weekday wake up time may disrupt your biological clock, increasing sleep disruption. Try and keep your bedtimes and wake-up times as consistent as possible throughout the week, ideally to within an hour of each other.
7. Switch off all electronics
Using electronic devices at nighttime is bad for sleep.
The blue light emitted from watching TV, playing video games, texting and social networking can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule. This may make it challenging for you to fall and stay asleep
It is advised to disconnect all electronics and put away computers and mobile phones at least an hour before bedtime. Settling down in a quiet place, free from distractions may help you to fall asleep much faster.
Research shows that regular exercise, particularly earlier in the day, can improve your sleep quality by raising your body temperature. Later in the day, when your temperature returns to its normal level, this can trigger feelings of drowsiness and help you drop off to sleep.
If possible, exercise outdoors to expose yourself to natural light, an important element in helping your body establish a good sleep-wake cycle. Make sure not to exercise close to bedtimes, as this can have the opposite effect, making it harder to fall asleep. Aim to exercise at least three times per week to harness these positive effects.
9. Take a bath
Studies show that a hot bath or shower around 90 minutes before bedtime can improve overall sleep quality. This can also help people to fall asleep faster and achieve a deeper sleep. A hot soak is always best. This can help to change your body’s core temperature so that you go to bed with a lower temperature making it easier to drift off. Adding Epson salts or sleep-inducing magnesium flakes may help too.
Having difficulty falling and remaining asleep is not only frustrating, but it can also impact your physical and mental wellbeing. In fact, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Fortunately, as explained above, smart nutrition and lifestyle changes can help. This is mainly due to the sleep-regulating hormones and brain chemicals, including melatonin and serotonin, found in certain foods. And the lifestyle adjustments which provide temperature lowering effects conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Published Health & Wellness Writer | Nutritional Therapist Dip ION, BSC
I am a professional copywriter, with vast experience in marketing and communications in the field of nutrition and wellness. I have contributed to a number of leading publications, including Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Health, Veggie Magazine, Simply Vegan, Plantbased Mag, Natural health Magazine and Vegan Food & Living.
I have years of experience as a web content creator and marketing manager, for websites receiving over 100,000 monthly hits. I was solely responsible for SEO for this site and a number of others. I had responsibility for generating a weekly newsletter which had a nutritional focus.
My areas of interest are nutrition, wellness, sustainability and all things eco-friendly. I am an allrounder and enjoy all aspects of business such as building websites, SEO, business development and marketing.strategy.
Qualifications: I am a qualified Nutritional Therapist with a higher degree in Marketing and Management.