Can we eat our way to sleeping better – not really, but we can we eat our way to bad sleep habits, with food and drink, it is more what to avoid than what to take in.
The first thing to mention is the obvious no no’s – caffeine and sugar. Being aware that too much, too late at night is going to really prevent deep sleep for long periods is the first step to improving sleep habits. Nothing use to please me more than a hefty chunk of chocolate late at night when I put my feet up to relax after a hard day – but it wasn’t doing my sleep or my waistline any good at all!
With coffee, we know it contains a stimulant that wakes us up and revives, that is why we love it so much first thing in the morning, but that coffee jolt late afternoon onwards can really disrupt sleep and if you prefer a good cup of English Tea, after seven pm go caffeine free or better still stick to camomile or sleepy tea. If it is warm milk that calms you, that can work too and for those with a dairy intolerance, try Almond or coconut milk – anything that puts you into a more relaxed state of mind can work, just not caffeine in the evening.
A 2013 study in the US concluded that when taken even six hours before bed, caffeine can decrease sleep by as much as an hour.
It is worth noting that milk is useful to our bodies as it has calcium and B vitamins, which are some of the building blocks for sleep and also that calcium deficiencies are sometimes associated with sleep deficiency.
When so many of us are lactose intolerant (including me) and have excluded milk from our diet, we find it difficult to sleep and I have to say that since taking a magnesium supplement, my sleep has really improved.
Foods that contain magnesium and therefore are good for sleep are
Foods containing B6
Foods containing Tryptophan (an amnio acid)
Finally surprisingly cherries are amazing for sleep.
Always try not to eat a heavy meal to close to bed time – yes its true, particularly if you suffer from acid reflux. As our work hours extend, we seem to eat later and later and that is just not healthy for us.
Also avoid spicy foods before bedtime, as these can cause bloating and heartburn. It has been proven that our body temperatures increase after eating spicy foods and this leads to poor sleep.
Very fatty foods will also disrupt sleep as it can lead to fragmented sleep and being dozy during the day.
Finally, we may believe that drinking alcohol will help settle us for the night and this ritual has been endorsed from everyone from Winston Churchill to James Bond, and it may well do, but not for the whole night:
Hours later, alcohol can act as a sleep disrupter and the quality of sleep you get under the influence is altered and disrupted. A study from the London Sleep Centre says “at all dosages, alcohol causes a more consolidated first half sleep and an increase in sleep disruption in the second half of sleep.”
Adrianna Huffington and The Sleep Revolution