We all suffer from some sort of sleep loss. It’s nearly impossible to live in today’s world and be able to say that you get a solid 7-9 hours every night. Right? Whether it’s in the form of a new baby, long work hours, or a touch of insomnia, sleep deprivation rears its ugly head for us all.
So how much sleep do you really need? Well adults aged from 18 – 65+ need between 7-9 hours. When you get the right amount of rest each night, and keep that consistent, you will automatically begin to see major changes in your physical health and emotional well-being.
Sleep is an important function for many reasons. When you sleep, your brain signals your body to release hormones and compounds that help:
- decrease risk for health conditions
- manage your hunger levels and weight
- maintain your immune system
- retain memory
- help reduce stress
Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories too…..but what foods should you be eating for a good nights sleep? Dr Libby Weaver Internationally Acclaimed Nutritional Biochemist, Author & Speaker suggests the following foods to support a healthy sleep cycle and get the correct nourishment your body needs.
PROTEIN – Protein is made up of amino acids, and the body uses an amino acid called tryptophan to produce our sleep hormone melatonin. Making sure we get sufficient protein throughout the day is therefore integral to great sleep. Protein food sources include lean meats, poultry and fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.
PLANT-BASED FOODS – Fruits, vegetables, olive oil and grains such as rice and barley, contain small amounts of melatonin (our sleep hormone) and have been shown to increase blood levels of melatonin. Plant foods are also rich in vitamins and minerals, which are required for the biochemical processes in our body to occur efficiently, including the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that affect our sleep.
MAGNESIUM-RICH FOODS – Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s utilised for a number of important biochemical functions throughout our body. Magnesium helps our muscles and our nervous system to relax, which is essential for great sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds.
VITAMIN B6 – This nutrient is essential for the body being able to make sleep hormones efficiently. Food sources include bananas, meat, fish, chickpeas and potatoes.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS – Research suggests that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, may be associated with better sleep in children. DHA is found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel.
CHAMOMILE TEA – This calming herb contains substances that help us relax. It has mild sedative properties and may assist with symptoms of anxiety. Try having a cup of chamomile tea before bed each evening as part of a relaxation ritual.
AVOID CAFFEINE – Caffeine triggers the release of adrenalin (one of our stress hormones) which amps us up, and it interferes with the production of melatonin,. It’s best to avoid caffeine consumption after midday as it takes around eight hours to for our body to process. Caffeine sources include coffee, chocolate, cola, tea and energy drinks.
AVOID ALCOHOL – Some people report that alcohol makes them sleepy and use it to help them fall asleep, but the quality of their sleep is actually poorer. Alcohol has been shown to reduce melatonin and it interferes with our sleep cycle, specifically reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – one of the deepest phases of our sleep. Be honest with yourself about how much alcohol you are consuming and whether it may be affecting your sleep quality.
AVOID REFINED SUGAR – Sugary foods and drinks provide a boost of energy that we don’t need right before bed – stick to nutrient-dense whole real foods at dinnertime to nourish your body before bedtime.
Beyond food, keep in mind that light destroys melatonin so be particularly aware of not using backlit devices for a minimum of one hour before sleep to allow your body’s innate production of melatonin to occur.
A soothing bedtime drink to help you sleep is a “Golden Warming Milk” This creamy, comforting drink is made of ingredients that have been shown to promote a good night’s sleep.
- 1cup unsweetened almond milk — or coconut milk
- 2teaspoons honey — plus additional to taste (to make vegan, swap maple syrup)
- 1 1/2teaspoons almond butter
- 1/2teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2teaspoon Ground Cinnamon — plus additional for serving
- 1/4teaspoon Ground Turmeric
- 1/8teaspoon Ground Ginger
- Optional additions: tiny pinch ground black pepper— ground cardamom, or ground cloves
- Combine the milk, honey, almond butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and any optional spices in a small saucepan. Heat over medium until warmed through, whisking briskly so that the almond butter does not stick to the bottom and the spices incorporate. Do not let boil. Pour into a mug and sip deeply.