Eat To Help You Sleep

Waitrose reveals that the secret to a good night’s sleep could lie in what we eat, as people look to kickstart the new year with a focus on self care.

The British Sleep Society has revealed that there has been a rise in sleepless nights, with 70% of people aged 40 to 63 reporting changes to their sleep patterns since the first lockdown.

Searches on show that the nation is looking to food and drink as a way of recapturing their all-important sleep patterns. Searches for “sleep tea” are up 60% when compared to the same period last year, while ‘sleep’ and ‘sleep better’ searches also up 81% and 66% respectively.

Given that it is an activity we spend an average of a third of our life doing, sleep is something that has long been undervalued. A recent article in Waitrose Health Magazine outlined the significance of a good night’s sleep and how fundamental it is to optimising our mental and physical wellbeing, particularly in regards to immunity; something that is of even greater importance at this time of year and in the current climate.

“There are many ways you can improve your sleep” says Professor Greg Whyte speaking to Waitrose Health Magazine. “For example, getting into a sleeping pattern and ensuring it stays as consistent as possible is beneficial for your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) which fundamentally acts your sleep-wake cycle, giving yourself time to decompress from the stresses of the day by having a bedtime routine, avoiding too much caffeine, especially later in the day, and avoiding eating a large meal close to bedtime or not drinking too much alcohol, can help improve your ability to get to sleep, and the quality of your sleep

In addition to good sleep hygiene habits, Nathalie Winn, Nutritionist at Waitrose shares some game-changing top tips on what to eat to help you sleep:

Go Nuts!
“Nuts and seeds are a great nutritious snack providing B-vitamins that are involved in processes that promote sleep, as well as the mineral magnesium, which helps muscle fibres to relax, aiding sleep. A healthy portion is 30g, which is about a small handful.

Nut butters are great too. In addition to avoiding big heavy meals late at night, going to bed hungry can keep you awake too, so if you’ve had a light early dinner, a good evening snack could be a spread of your favourite nut butter like Peanut, Almond or Cashew Butter on a couple of wholegrain crackers or oatcakes.”

Don’t Turn Your Back on Turkey
“Just because Christmas has come and gone, don’t disregard the turkey just yet! Not only is turkey an excellent source of protein, but it contains sleep-inducing tryptophan. There’s research showing that consuming foods that contain the essential amino acid tryptophan in the evening can help reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.

Tryptophan is also found in fish like tuna, nuts and seeds, oats and bananas too. Dairy like milk contains it too, so the traditional warm bedtime cup of milk may have been on to something.

Alcohol-Free Night Caps
“It may feel like alcohol helps you to fall asleep because it has an initial sedative effect, but it actually disturbs the natural sleep cycle, waking you up as your body processes the alcohol, making it fragmented preventing you going into the deeper stages of sleep. But having something to drink before bed is no bad idea, so long as it’s the right drink.

Try to limit caffeine after 3pm too. It’s a stimulant and works by blocking the action of the sleep-promoting compounds in the brain that make us feel sleepy. Caffeinated drinks also have a diuretic effect, so it can have you running to the loo all night too.

There are loads of different caffeine-free herbal teas available which may help you to drift off to sleep, or a simple mug of hot water, lemon and honey might be your evening tipple.
Just beware of hidden caffeine in drinks such as regular tea, hot chocolate and cola which will have the opposite effect!”

Keep carbs in!
“Carbohydrates have been shown to increase sleepiness when consumed in the afternoon and evening – remember that drowsy feeling after a carb-heavy meal? Include some carbohydrate-containing foods in your evening meal like potatoes, swede or rice, or as mentioned earlier a slice of wholegrain toast, pitta or oatcake with your favourite nut butter for a light evening snack”