While we’re always reminded of the foods not to eat to avoid being awake all night, like caffeinated drinks, sugary sweets and chocolate, there are a range of foods which can actually help us fall asleep and stay asleep for longer.
Rich in a range of vitamins and minerals, these foods will not only boost how refreshed you’ll feel in the morning, but your overall health as well.
While this may sound like an old wives’ tale, a compound found in milk, called tryptophan can induce melatonin production and send you off to sleep, naturally. Melatonin is the hormone which is released by your brain when light levels begin to dim at twilight and is needed to regulate sleeping and wakefulness. Beyond chemically inducing sleep, the warmth, comfort and childhood associations of a warm glass of milk can help relax and soothe you before bedtime. Tryptophan isn’t just found in milk, but is also present in other dairy products like ricotta, cottage cheese and yoghurt, so it’s worth considering one of these options for dessert if you need some help dozing after a big meal – like ricotta with a drizzle of honey and some finely chopped nuts for crunch.
A cup of warm tea before bedtime can be incredibly soothing. The ritual of a cup of warm, caffeine free tea, like chamomile, peppermint, naturally sweet liquorice tea or valerian tea every night, half an hour before bed, can be a good trigger for your brain to know that it’s time to start winding down.
Chamomile however, is particularly good at sending you off to sleep as it contains a flavonoid called apigenin which can cause a similar chemical reaction in your brain as some sleeping pills and has been used as a cure for insomnia for almost one hundred years.
Magnesium is your friend if you have problems falling, and staying, asleep. A lack of magnesium has been linked to a variety of sleep-hindering issues such as restless leg syndrome, frequent waking and light sleep. Magnesium helps your brain to regulate levels of GABA which is a sleep promoting neurotransmitter, as well as helping to reduce anxiety and relax your muscles. Load up your plate with leafy greens like spinach and kale at dinner time to ensure a deeper, more relaxing and refreshing sleep.
With insomnia often linked to anxiety, working on keeping this in check will ensure an easier transition to sleep. Vitamin B6, which is plentiful in sunflower seeds and pistachios, can help to regulate your serotonin levels, stabilising your mood and keeping you calm so you can float off to sleep that much easier. Vitamin B6 also has the added bonus of helping convert tryptophan into melatonin, so is a great accompaniment to your warm glass of milk or yoghurt. You may even like to enjoy a chia pudding (sweetened with drizzle of honey) for dessert.
While falling asleep is the first hurdle in the way of a good night’s rest, staying asleep is equally as important to waking up refreshed. Low calcium diets have been linked to an inability to stay deeply asleep throughout the night.
Often only linked to dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, calcium can also be found in high supply in legumes like beans and lentils. They can help boost your ability to remain fast asleep all night long. This means you’ll experience more restorative REM sleep cycles, ensuring you’re able to learn and remember more during the day. Try adding them to soups or drain a tin of lentils and use to bulk up your salads.
As well as eating a diet of magnesium-rich whole-foods, you can boost your body’s magnesium levels with Nutra-Life Magnesium Sleep to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake refreshed.