Now for the good snooze…
Most of us will have made New Year’s resolutions to get fitter or healthier, but just a few small changes to lifestyle and diet can also make a world of difference to our sleep. If you struggle to get off or toss and turn throughout the night, experts reckon a few tweaks to what we eat and when we exercise could improve our sleep, making us feel miles better.
Here are ten things you need to know to get a good snooze:
1. Eating carb-rich food, like toast or porridge, a couple of hours before bedtime will stimulate the release of insulin, which opens the pathways for tryptophan – the sleep hormone – to reach the brain. This Health Ambition article recommends some foods that can help you ‘sleep like a baby’
2. Oily fish, such as tuna or salmon, are excellent sources of omega-3 DHA fatty acids and can improve the quality of sleep, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.
3. Don’t skip breakfast as your body will react by pumping out stress hormones.
4. Eat more healthy red and orange-coloured food, like carrots or tomatoes, which contain lycopene, an antioxidant that has been shown to improve the way you sleep, according to the University of Pennsylvania.
5. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Adults with insomnia who drank a glass of Montmorency cherry juice twice a day for two weeks saw a sleep time increased by almost 90 minutes, as discovered in a study from Louisiana State University.
6. The less exercise a person does, the more tired they can feel, so experts suggest going for a walk. Even 20 minutes a day is said to help
7. Eating white rice can trigger a deep sleep, as found by Japanese researchers. But noodles and pasta can have a detrimental effect.
8. Working people should always take breaks during the day to lower stress hormones – particularly if they have energy-sapping jobs – to ensure a calm night’s sleep.
9. Contrary to popular belief, eating cheese before bedtime does not give people nightmares. In fact, studies have found dairy products can actually promote sleep as they contain calming minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which relax muscles, and peptides, which have anti-stress effects.
10. Reducing your intake of caffeine, alcohol and spicy meals in the evening is proven to help with sleep. If this still does not work, a short, controlled period of fasting has been shown to improve sleep quality.
Nutritionist and wellness expert Dr Susan Biali says, “If you have trouble falling asleep, it may be because you don’t take time to transition properly from your busy day into bedtime. Create a wind-down routine for yourself, such as making yourself a drink, some relaxing yoga or a few moments of mindfulness. You’ll feel so much better, and you’ll sleep better, too.”
See the Sleep Matters Club for more information.