Getting a good night's sleep isn’t just about avoiding caffeine and hitting the sack early. It’s far more complex than that. Whether we get a good amount of shut-eye even depends on the foods we choose to fuel our body with.
Do you find that sometimes you fall asleep within 5 minutes, but other nights, you end up tossing and turning for hours for no apparent reason? It could be down to what you eat. Some foods contain natural substances which help to bring on sleep, while others contain fats, amino acids or other substances which make your brain more alert, preventing quality rest.
Let’s take a look at the best foods to eat and which to avoid for a great night’s sleep.
Foods to eat
Cherries are magical when it comes to sleep. A study which was published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that when an individual drank one ounce of cherry juice a day, they reported significantly longer and better sleep. But why? Cherries have a high melatonin content. Melatonin is the hormone which tells our bodies it’s time for bed. So if you crave a sweet treat late at night, a few cherries and plain yogurt is a tasty, sleep-friendly option!
A known superfood, spinach has a long list of sleep-inducing nutrients to go along with its incredible health benefits. Packed with folate, magnesium, vitamins B6 and C, which all help to synthesize serotonin and subsequently melatonin, a handful of raw spinach with your evening meal is an insomniac’s best friend.
Foods to avoid
If you’re a little bit of a chocolate fanatic, you won’t be pleased to hear that your favorite treat could be stopping you from sleeping well. Just like coffee, chocolate contains high amounts of caffeine which prevents your body from shutting down and achieving deep sleep. We know how tempting chocolate is, and it’s good to treat yourself occasionally - just try to have it earlier on in the day.
You’ve probably heard that cheese can give people strange dreams, but have you ever wondered why? Cheese has high levels of tyramine, an amino acid which makes the brain feel more alert. So although cheese and crackers are undeniably delicious, they could make it harder for you to fall asleep.
- Spicy foods
Love a spicy curry every once in a while? Spices like cayenne and tabasco contain capsaicin, which has the potential to trigger heartburn while also making it harder for your body to regulate temperature. Normally, your body’s core temperature decreases as you fall asleep, so raising it can make it extra difficult to drop off.
- Fatty foods
Pizza, burgers, burritos and ice cream sundaes may make your mouth water, but they certainly won’t help you fall asleep. Foods which are high in fat are hard for your stomach to digest - so your body ends up doing more work rather than relaxing. If you’re going to indulge in a delicious (but unhealthy) fatty dinner, it might be best to have it for your lunch instead of dinner if you suffer from insomnia.
Sleep is essential for a happy and healthy lifestyle. As well as getting regular exercise, establishing a nighttime routine and investing in a weighted blanket for insomnia, keeping an eye on your diet is key to a good night’s sleep. Next time you’re peckish before bed, grab a handful of almonds or a few juicy cherries and let us know if it does the trick!