20th February 2021
Every March The Sleep Council UK run National Bed Month to highlight the importance of a good sleeping environment and how it can encourage better sleep. Sleep is essential to the daily running of our lives, and too little or too much can drastically alter the way we function.
Is it just our environment that matters though, or are there practical steps we can take to improve and promote a good night’s sleep?
Specifically, we want to explore whether certain foods can help aid the descent into a peaceful slumber, and if so, what is the evidence around such claims?
Almonds have long been known for their nutritional and health benefits but helping you to nod off might not have been one of them.
The truth is almonds contain a high dosage of melatonin; an essential hormone which helps regulate the sleeping and waking cycle. Almonds also contain magnesium and calcium which are minerals known to support muscle relaxation and sleep.
The recommended serving before bedtime is 28g or roughly a handful.
Kiwifruit might sound like a strange sleep association, but its benefits have been suggested in various studies.
In one 4-week study, it was proven that participants who consumed kiwifruit one hour before going to bed fell asleep 42% more quickly than those who didn’t eat anything (Lin, Tsai, Fang, et al, 2011). The same participants also exhibited a total sleep time increase of 13% (Lin, Tsai, Fang, et al, 2011).
It is thought the sleep-promoting effects of kiwifruit is attributed to its serotonin content; a chemical which helps regulate the sleep cycle.
Oatmeal, or porridge as we like to call it, is usually associated with breakfast and waking up. But did you know it also boasts the ability to make you sleepy?
This is because oatmeal is high in carbs and has been reported to induce drowsiness when consumed before bed.
There’s a reason why we give babies a bottle of milk before bedtime.
It’s because milk, and other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt are sources of trytophan.
Trytophan is an essential amino acid which cannot be made by the human body itself but must be obtained through our diets. Trytophan is needed to make several important molecules such as serotonin and melatonin which greatly influence the sleep-wake cycle.
So having a glass of milk before bedtime might not be such a childish thing to do after all!
Tart Cherry Juice
Tart Cherry Juice is known for its high content of important nutrients such as magnesium and potassium. But it’s also high in melatonin which has a sleep-inducing effect when consumed before bed.
An article published in a 2014 academic journal found that cherry ingestion contributed to establishing high-quality sleep and could be used as a potential nutraceutical tool to prevent sleep disorders with the advancing of age (Zeng, Yang, Du, et al, 2014).
This same effect was also found in a study looking at nutritional interventions to enhance sleep in elite athletes. The study found the ingestion of tart cherries may increase melatonin when consumed over a 2-week period and improve subjective insomnia symptoms when compared with placebo (Halson, 2014).
The consumption of the above foods will not magically zonk you out. The secret to a good night’s sleep involves several contributing factors which can be impacted by stress levels, medical conditions and environment.
However, the above will certainly aid the process, and here at Peel we always like to give natural health and wellbeing boosters a go.
You should too!
Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine, 44(1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008810/
Lin, H., Tsai, P., Fang, S., et al. (2011). Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20(2). http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/20/2/169.pdf
Zeng, Y., Yang, J., Du, J., et al. (2014). Strategies of functional foods promote sleep in human being. Current Signal Transduction Therapy, 9(3). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440346/