Foods to eat for a better night's sleep

You probably already know the foods that are going to keep you up past your bedtime, but what about the foods that can help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for longer?

Certain foods can help synthesise a sleep-enhancing chemical called tryptophan, which helps our bodies make melatonin and serotonin; the hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycles.

Or they can contain sleep-inducing nutrients like magnesium, which relaxes muscles, reduces inflammation and reduces the stress hormone, cortisol; calcium, which aids the transport of tryptophan to the brain; and vitamin B6, required for the production of serotonin.

Try incorporating some of the following foods before bed to see what a difference it can make to your quality of sleep.

Rice

A study conducted at the University of Sydney showed consuming Jasmine rice four hours before bed may boost the synthesis of tryptophan and serotonin in the brain, helping you to fall asleep sooner once your head hits the pillow.

Nuts

Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and plant-based protein. Walnuts are an excellent source of tryptophan and one of the best food sources of melatonin, while almonds are high in magnesium and calcium. Grab a handful to snack on after dinner or pick up a jar of nut butter, and consume by the spoonful.

Dairy

It’s not just an old wives' tale that a glass of warm milk before bed helps you get a good night’s sleep. Dairy - milk, yoghurt, cream, kefir, cheese - contains calcium, which helps the body use the tryptophan, also found in dairy, to make melatonin.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are high in vitamin B6, tryptophan and calcium. They’re also a good source of fibre, which is associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Spread some hummus on a wholegrain crispbread and you’ll be aiding the transport of that tryptophan to the brain, thanks to the additional carbohydrates.

Try making this chickpea stew recipe and serve with rice.

Kiwifruit

Loaded with vitamin C, kiwifruit has potent antioxidant properties, is high in vitamin B6, fibre and serotonin. A study by the Taipei Medical University showed that eating two kiwifruits an hour before bed substantially improved both sleep quality and sleep quantity.

Chamomile tea

Drinking a cup of chamomile tea has long been promoted as a natural sleep aid and there is plenty of scientific evidence to back this up. Chamomile tea contains glycine, an amino acid that acts as a mild sedative, aiding relaxation and our ability to fall asleep more easily.

This chamomile and lavender tea makes the perfect bedtime beverage.

Get some Vitamin D

How much sleep we get and how well we sleep is profoundly affected by light - exposure to light (and dark) is what drives the circadian rhythm, which in turn regulates our sleep-wake cycle. So if you’ve had a rough night's sleep, exposure to natural sunlight first thing in the morning is one way to improve your alertness and energy during the day and may help you to sleep better at night.

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