For many people, falling asleep is a nightly challenge and the length and quality of their sleep affect the way they function during the day. Many people resort to sleeping pills but find that the side effects of these are worse than the sleep deprivation. Headaches, impaired driving, dependence and a ‘hung-over’ feeling are just some of the risks involved with sleeping drugs.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to pharmaceutical sleeping medications.
By making simple dietary changes, and ensuring that the body has the right minerals and nutrients, anyone can make falling asleep easier and enhance the quality of their sleeping hours.
To understand what the body needs to get quality sleep, it is important to understand the elements, chemicals and processes which lead to sleep. The following terms are essential for understanding food and nutrition’s relationship with sleep:
– Melatonin and Serotonin
The hormones in the body which set sleep cycles. Certain foods contain properties which help to trigger or produce more of these hormones.
An amino acid which helps to trigger melatonin and serotonin. Found largely in protein rich foods and carbohydrates with a high GI.
An element essential to metabolism, muscle recovery, immune system and sleep patterns. It is found in low to medium doses in most health foods.
A nutrient which helps the brain to use Tryptophan. Higher calcium levels support the deepest phases of sleep.
– Glycemic Index (GI)
The rate at which carbohydrates in food is metabolized. Studies show that foods with a high GI may help people to fall asleep faster.
Scientific studies have shown that nutrition affects sleep patterns and that people can improve the quality of their sleep naturally by eating foods which improve the chemical processes that lead to better sleep. These seven foods have been proven to be excellent natural sleeping aids:
Almonds are a rich source of magnesium, which helps the body to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Studies show that people with insufficient magnesium levels find it harder to fall asleep and wake up more regularly during the night. Increasing and maintaining magnesium levels by making almonds a daily snack can alleviate this.
2. CHAMOMILE TEA
The calming effects of chamomile tea have long been praised. A cup of chamomile tea before bed does wonders for people with sleep difficulties because the flower acts as a mild sedative, releasing glycine which relaxes the nerves and muscles.
The old tale that “cheese gives you nightmares” has been disproved. In fact, cheese and other dairy products contain high levels of calcium which helps the body to process tryptophan which, in turn, triggers sleep hormones. A light evening snack of cheese and crackers has been shown to be beneficial to people who struggle to fall asleep.
Cherries are a natural melatonin booster and can help alleviate symptoms of insomnia. A bowl of cherries for dessert or a glass of cherry juice in the evening should help to regulate sleep patterns without having to resort to prescription medicines.
5. JASMINE RICE
Foods with a high glycemic index, such as jasmine rice, make it easier for the body to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep for longer. A rice main or side dish as part of the evening meal have been shown to be beneficial for people who find sleep difficult.
6. LEAFY GREENS
Leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, and spinach have multiple health benefits and better sleep is one of them. Salad greens are a rich source of both calcium and magnesium and will help the tryptophan to stimulate melatonin. In short, a salad with the evening meal will help the body to regulate sleep patterns and lead to a quality night’s sleep.
Walnuts are rich in tryptophan and will help the body to produce melatonin. Snacking on 10 to 15 walnuts an hour before sleep can help people to fall asleep more quickly and enjoy more regular sleeping patterns.
In summary, each of the above foods can help to support faster, longer and more regulated sleep patterns. Many have additional health benefits and none of the suggestions give people the side effects that prescription sleeping drugs do. Including sleep foods in a healthy diet and getting regular exercise should be tried before resorting to medical intervention. A final suggestion that can be done along with suggested foods and exercise is aromatherapy to relax a person. See our other page to learn more about this.