Good nutrition is essential for fueling our bodies and sustaining us throughout the day. It is equally important to power us down at night and positively influences our quality of sleep. Research has shown that insufficient and excessive sleep duration is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes , cardiovascular disease, weight gain and mental health problems.
Towards the ending of this month (Sunday March 26th at 1am) the clocks will go forward, which means one less hour under the bed covers. Thus, knowing the right food to consume for optimal sleep duration and quality, which is considered to be around 7-8hours each night, is necessary. Below are some foods that may help you have a good’s night sleep and reduce the onset of sleep disturbances.
Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant and carotenoid, which is responsible for giving many fruits and vegetables their reddish colour. A study showed that consumption of lycopene-containing food was linked with reduced sleep complication. Furthermore, another study showed that short sleepers consumed less lycopene than 7-8hr sleepers. Lycopene can also be found in watermelon, grapefruit and sweet red peppers.
2. Oily fish
A population-based study last year showed that oily fish consumption is linked with better sleep quality. The study also showed that individuals who consumed more than the recommended amount of fish had a further improvement in the quality of sleep. A healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish. Examples of oily fish are tuna, mackerel and salmon. Having said this, salmon contains B6 vitamin which is involved in serotonin production and helps regulate sleep cycles.
Whilst the link between Brazil nuts and sleep quality is scarce, Brazil nuts are excellent sources of minerals like magnesium and selenium. Studies have shown the possible involvement of magnesium in sleep regulation with researchers demonstrating that adults with chronic sleep deprivation had low magnesium concertation. Decreased levels of selenium in adults have been linked with very short sleep duration (less than 5hrs).
4. Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are containing iron, which is needed for the production of red blood cells and energy production. Low iron levels are implicated with sleep disorders, such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) and insomnia. Individuals with RLS or PLMD will often have jerking movements during their sleep and wake up tired despite a full night’s sleep. Examples of green leafy vegetables include spinach, kale and bok choy.
Having yoghurt as an evening snack may help facilitate the process of melatonin production as it contains calcium and tryptophan, which is required for this action. Melatonin, considered as a ‘sleep hormone’ helps regulate sleep cycles and maintenance of night time sleep. When you are feeling peckish and decide to tuck into a pot of yoghurt, make sure you opt for the low-fat and low-sugar yoghurt options.
6. Jasmine rice
Some researchers investigated the effect that different glycaemic index (GI) of rice and meal times has on sleep quality. They found that those who consumed Jasmine rice (high GI) four hours before bed fell asleep significantly faster at bed time compared to those who consumed Mahatma rice (low GI). It was implied that the high amount of insulin produced by high-GI meals increased the ratio of sleep-inducing-amino acid tryptophan in relation to other amino acids in the blood, allowing more to get into the brain. Choosing brown jasmine rice as opposed to white jasmine rice is a healthier option to consume.
As a whole, you should aim to achieve a healthy balanced diet daily which will provide you with key nutrients to enhance your sleep quality. A healthy balanced diet generally consists of some of the foods that have been mentioned above and can be optimised with other food types from main food groups. The Eatwell guide illustrates the proportion of types of food and drinks to eat that can contribute to a healthy diet.