Hey food fans! Now, there’s absolutely no point in me telling you that “you are what you eat”. You’re a fan of this website so I’m going to presume you already know that. What you might be surprised to learn is that what we eat can have a huge impact on how well we sleep.
For instance, having a 10oz steak just before bed isn’t exactly going to do wonders for your slumber. All that protein requires your digestive system to do a whole lot of work. And a churning gut is not really what you want when you’re heading to bed. When your head hits that pillow you want your body to be as relaxed as it can possibly be. The gut has its own rhythms that compete with your circadian rhythms that’s why I recommend eating earlier in the night.
And skipping the late night steak is sensible for sure. If you do get a little bit peckish before bed (which is perfectly natural), try picking something from our fabulous ‘sleep promoter’ menu below instead...
The humble Kiwi
New Zealand is an amazing country. Not only does it have some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, the best rugby teams on the planet and exotic wildlife found nowhere else (the Kea anyone?), it’s also home to the humble kiwi fruit.
Small, green and covered in fuzz, the kiwi fruit is not only delicious, it’s also incredible for your sleep.
Enjoying one, or better yet, two, of the hairy green fellas an hour before bed is scientifically proven to improve your slumber. Well at least according to a team of researchers from Taiwan. And I’ve no reason to doubt them!
Exactly why the kiwi is so useful for sleep is still not clear but it’s thought to be due to the high levels of serotonin and antioxidants present in the superfruit. Serotonin being one of the neurotransmitters that controls your mood, stress levels and sleep cycles. Thanks New Zealand!
A stable of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, adding a pinch of turmeric to your diet is proven to have a host of health benefits. It boosts your immune system, helps digestion and can play a role in reducing blood-sugar levels. Three things that can get in the way of a good night’s rest.
In the Indian subcontinent a very popular pre-bed nightcap is so-called ‘Golden Milk’, this is a cup of hot milk topped up with a healthy does of tumeric and then seasoned with pinch of ginger or cinnamon, or both. Mmmm...sounds delightful doesn’t it? And a lot healthier than a cup of hot chocolate. Have you tried my Anti-inflammatory Toddy recipe? It makes a beautiful night cap.
Traditional healers have been making use of walnuts since time immemorial. The nutty little guys have been used to treat anything from skin conditions in adults to colic in babies. Now it seems that walnuts can also be used to enhance your sleep too.
Why are walnuts so good for sleep? Well it’s because they contain melatonin boosting agents. Melatonin being the essential hormone that dictates how well your sleep cycle works. The more melatonin in your blood stream the drowsier you get and the easier it is to fall asleep.
In a nutshell, that’s why walnuts are so wonderful! But a word of warning before you go knocking back a fistful of the nobbly chaps, take care if you haven’t tried them before, walnuts can be highly allergenic. So before you have supersized serving for your supper, maybe make sure you’re not allergic first.
For more on the risks and rewards of late night snacking have a quick look at this handy guide to eating before bed.
Now I know there are many dairy fans out there but also a lot of you who are not into dairy. There are good reasons for both positions. What I’m going to say is that for some people taking a dose of dairy before bed can do great things for their sleep. Obviously for others this definitely wouldn't be the case.
Why is dairy good for sleep? Well, because dairy products are rich in calcium and a sleep promoting amino acid known as tryptophan. Studies indicate a calcium deficient may make it harder to drop off at night. So having a cheerful lump of cheese or yummy yogurt before could be a good move. Don’t worry that whole thing about cheese give you nightmares is just a myth.
Now, I’m not giving you free reign to start polishing off bowls after bowl of ice-cream. Sugar is about as far from a sleep promoter as you can get. And if you still want to get the calcium kick but don’t want to go down the dairy direction, try some other calcium crazy foods instead, such as dark leafy greens, broccoli or sardines for dinner.
Well, there you have it – four wonderful sleep enhancing foods that can play a very real role in improving how well you sleep tonight. Happy eating and sweet dreams!