08 Oct Sleep snacks: Which foods can help you get better rest?
The quality of our sleep is closely tied to our diets. In fact, many nutritionists recommend certain types of food for their sleep-boosting properties. Here, we’re going to take a look at how the food you eat impacts your quality of sleep, as well as list some of the best sleep-boosting snacks to include in your daily diet. Read on to find out more.
How does food impact our sleep?
A big part of living a healthy lifestyle involves eating a balanced diet. And, it’s the nutrients in all of the food that we consume that powers our brain and body’s activity, including how we rest. These nutrients are essential for the production of neurotransmitters that regulate sleep: they’re used to create the proteins, minerals and, subsequently, the amino acids the chemicals are made from. If these amino acids are lacking, our bodies can’t generate enough regulators and sleep is disrupted.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that making poor food choices through the day had an effect on the quality of sleep. Researchers controlled the diets of participants for four days, then allowed them to choose for themselves on the final day. The results found that eating more foods with saturated fats and sugars, as well as eating less fibre, was enough to cause a more restless and less restorative night’s rest.
There are also foods that can impact sleep on their own. For instance, caffeine, the stimulant that is commonly associated with coffee, tea, and energy drinks, is also present in chocolate, ice cream, and even cereal. It affects your body by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals and promoting the production of adrenalin. Though caffeine is often present in foods in smaller amounts, it can still contribute to the overall level in your body. Plus, it takes around six hours for half of the caffeine in your system to be eliminated (Sleep Foundation), so any ingested in the afternoon may still be lingering by bedtime.
Spicy or acidic dishes can also be sleep disruptors. Firstly, they can be problematic if you regularly suffer from heartburn, especially if you suffer with acid reflux, as these foods can cause discomfort when trying to drift off at night. And, one study found that a spicy meal has the ability to disturb rest by elevating your body temperature so that you find it more difficult to get to sleep and are more prone to waking in discomfort.
Which foods can improve sleep?
We’ve looked at how food can affect sleep, but which types should you eat to boost the quality of your sleep? Below, we’ve taken a look at some of the most effective.
Already the cornerstone for healthy salads, lettuce is also great for those looking to improve their rest thanks to a special substance called lactucarium. It’s known for its sedative properties that can promote sleep. Dark green lettuce varieties, such as romaine, green leaf, and arugula are also high in potassium and magnesium, which can help to relax muscles.
Pistachios are a good choice before bedtime thanks to their high levels of protein and magnesium, which are essential for winding your body down for the day. They’re also a rich source of tryptophan and vitamin B6, which are important for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin, both vital for controlling your sleep cycle and body clock.
Another food rich in tryptophan is fish. Fatty varieties, such as tuna, salmon, halibut, and cod, all contain high levels of the substance, and also have lots of other sleep essentials like vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, one study published in Scientific Reports found that the regular consumption of fish resulted in an improved level of sleep.
Pasta and noodles
We’ve already mentioned that a lack of fibre can affect sleep negatively, so you should try and make sure that you’re eating enough. Pasta and noodles, especially the whole-wheat variety, are an easy-to-make, convenient source of fibre, but you can also get a fix from whole-grain breads and fruit. Plenty of fibre will help your body to resist blood sugar spikes, which can prevent your body from producing enough melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Dairy products like yoghurt are a great source of calcium, which assists your brain in the production of melatonin. In addition, it has the ability to reduce stress and stabilise nerve fibres in the brain for better rest. Research from Japan in 2016 even linked calcium to a new theory about how the underlying mechanisms of sleep work, showing just how important the chemical could be.
Your diet is innately linked to your quality of rest, so we hope this blog post has provided you with some essential information, as well as some food tips for better sleep.