For A Good Night’s Sleep

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by: Danielle Da Silva, The Health Plus Team

The Best Foods

Sci­en­tif­ic re­search has re­vealed the im­por­tance of hav­ing a good night’s sleep on our phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tion­al health.

When you sleep well, your body has the time to heal and re­pair, while your brain cre­ates new neur­al path­ways. You there­fore wake up feel­ing re­freshed and ready to face the new day. The qual­i­ty of our sleep af­fects what we choose to eat and con­verse­ly, what we choose to eat af­fects the qual­i­ty of our sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to crave high-sug­ar foods so that we can have the en­er­gy to make it through the day. To­day, we ex­plore how the foods that we choose to eat af­fect how eas­i­ly we fall asleep and stay asleep.

Be­fore we dive in­to the foods that are best for a good night’s sleep, let me ex­plain what the body needs for sleep. Mela­tonin is an im­por­tant hor­mone pro­duced in the brain that con­trols our sleep cy­cle. How well our body us­es mela­tonin is af­fect­ed by our con­sump­tion of tryp­to­phan, an es­sen­tial amino acid (the build­ing blocks of pro­tein) that in­flu­ences the lev­el of mela­tonin and sero­tonin (an­oth­er im­por­tant sleep hor­mone) in the brain. Since tryp­to­phan is an es­sen­tial amino acid, it can­not be pro­duced by the body and can on­ly be ob­tained through our di­et.

It’s prob­a­bly no sur­prise that a healthy, bal­anced di­et al­so leads to a good night’s sleep. A healthy, bal­anced di­et is one that in­cludes a lot of fruits and veg­eta­bles, whole grains, low fat pro­teins and healthy fats and is low in added sug­ar and sat­u­rat­ed fats,this sup­ports a healthy sleep cy­cle for many rea­sons:

• A healthy bal­anced di­et is rich in B vi­t­a­mins which makes tryp­to­phan more avail­able to the body and thus reg­u­lates mela­tonin.

• In ad­di­tion, a healthy bal­anced di­et is less like­ly to be de­fi­cient in mag­ne­sium, a min­er­al that sup­ports deep restora­tive sleep.

• On the oth­er hand if your di­et is high in processed and re­fined foods, you would like­ly have nu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies which will im­pact your mela­tonin pro­duc­tion.

• Fur­ther­more, a di­et high in sug­ar and re­fined car­bo­hy­drates could lead to sleep dis­tur­bances as the spike in blood sug­ar can block mela­tonin pro­duc­tion.

• Eat­ing a bal­anced di­et helps you to achieve a healthy weight which al­so re­duces your risk of in­som­nia, sleep ap­nea and oth­er sleep dis­tur­bances.

Here are spe­cif­ic foods that may be help­ful for a good night’s rest and pro­vide many oth­er ben­e­fits to the body:

Nuts are rich in tryp­to­phan. In ad­di­tion, al­monds are a good source of mag­ne­sium and wal­nuts al­so con­tain mela­tonin.

Cer­tain fruits like ba­nanas, pineap­ple, or­anges, tart cher­ries and ki­wis al­so con­tain mela­tonin.

Most pro­tein will con­tain tryp­to­phan, but turkey and oth­er poul­try, as well as eggs, con­tain high­er lev­els. Legumes al­so pro­vide high lev­els of tryp­to­phan as well as B-vi­t­a­mins. Fish, such as sar­dines, al­so pro­vides mag­ne­sium.

Dairy prod­ucts like yo­ghurt and milk are high in tryp­to­phan and al­so con­tain mag­ne­sium and B-vi­t­a­mins, all of which sup­port good sleep. Plus, the rit­u­al of hav­ing a warm cup of milk at bed­time has been shown to sup­port sleep.

Al­ter­na­tive­ly you can steep a caf­feine-free tea such as chamomile or pep­per­mint at bed­time for your night­ly rit­u­al, which re­lax­es the nerves and the mus­cles in the body.

Leafy-greens are great for many rea­sons in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing cal­ci­um and mag­ne­sium, which sup­port healthy mela­tonin lev­els. In ad­di­tion, the fiber from the greens helps to lim­it spikes in blood sug­ar which can block mela­tonin pro­duc­tion.

Just as there are foods that pro­mote healthy sleep, there are foods that will make falling asleep, or stay­ing asleep, dif­fi­cult. Some of these foods should be min­imised for op­ti­mal health and should be avoid­ed at din­ner­time to en­sure you get a good night’s sleep:

Caf­feine, spicy food and high-fat meals, which can cause heart­burn and keep you up at night.

High sug­ar foods and so­das

Many peo­ple be­lieve a night­cap (al­co­holic bev­er­age) at bed­time helps them to get to sleep. An oc­ca­sion­al al­co­holic bev­er­age at bed­time is fine, how­ev­er, long-term use of a night-cap can lead to in­som­nia and fre­quent wake-ups dur­ing the night.

Sleep is es­sen­tial for our phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tion­al health. If you strug­gle with falling asleep or stay­ing asleep, in ad­di­tion to look­ing at your di­et, you can al­so cre­ate a bed­time rit­u­al to help your body and mind wind down at the end of the day. In ad­di­tion, mak­ing sure that you have good sleep con­di­tions such as a dark, well-ven­ti­lat­ed room.

Sweet dreams!

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