Some sleep truths seem…well, too good to be true! Like the fact that having sex means you sleep better. Or that eating ice-cream before bed can actually help you to sleep more soundly. Don’t believe me? Think about it. The body is like a machine, with food as the fuel to give it energy. When we feed it the right fuel we feel healthier, we look better and we allow it to coordinate smoothly with the mind to do the things we need it to do. Like sleeping properly, for instance.
On the other hand, when we feed our bodies the wrong foods – perhaps ones high in sugar or caffeine – it’s like putting diesel into an unleaded car. A big no-no. We end up with high blood sugar, shaky hands and an anxious mind…not exactly a prelude to sleep! As all the experts will tell you, getting a decent sleep is one of the most important things we can do to live healthier, happier lives. So read on, and learn about the best foods to get your snooze on. Yum yum.
As well as being super tasty and one of the most colourful additions to your fruit salad, this zingy little number packs a powerful sleep punch. Because chowing down on a kiwi – or even better, two kiwis – an hour before bedtime increases your chances of a faster, deeper sleep. This is thanks to the high levels of serotonin and antioxidants contained in each furry fella, which contribute to the lovely and relaxed feeling that dreams are made of.
Another colourful addition to any kitchen, turmeric has long been hailed in ayurvedic medicine for its healing properties. Mainly used as an anti-inflammatory substance, it also reduces blood sugar levels, boosts the immune system and eases the digestive system. So if the sugar shakes or a sore stomach are keeping you up at night, turmeric could be the answer to help you settle down.
Tip: Try turmeric in a delicious drink that they call “Golden Milk” in India. Stir a teaspoon into a cup of hot milk, with half a teaspoon of ginger and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Nourishing, soothing and sleep-inducing…this cuppa has it all!
Frankly, I go nuts for almonds. I can’t get enough of their crunchy goodness! A dollop of almond butter on toast might seem like a naughty treat but it actually makes an ideal evening snack.This is because almonds contain magnesium, which aids in the production of serotonin (or the “happy hormone”). Having a handful before bed helps you calm down as you chew, settling your mind for a deeper slumber.
4. Sweet potatoes
Swap the fries in your evening meals for some tasty, and sleep-promoting, sweet potato wedges instead. They contain complex carbohydrate, which keep your belly satisfied throughout the night and prevent it from waking you with angry grumbles. Sweet potatoes are also a source of potassium; known as a natural muscle relaxant. The result? An appetite that’s sated, a body that’s relaxed and a sleep that’s as sweet as the potatoes themselves.
Tip: Serve your wedges with a helping of tahini (or hummus made from tahini). As well as tasting delicious, sesame seeds contain tryptophan – an amino acid that aids sleep. Since it takes an hour to kick in, tahini is most effective as part of your evening meal rather than a snack right before bedtime.
Research suggests that calcium deficiency may lead to problems with sleep. So having a tasty yogurt treat before bed can actually boost your sleep levels. Thanks, science! This doesn’t mean you should indulge in a midnight cheese ‘n’ ice-cream party. As well as being a weird combination, cheese can give you heartburn and ice-cream is full of sugar. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to a healthier alternative later). The point being, the downsides of these foods outweigh the goodness of calcium as a sleep promoter.
So stick to sugar-free yogurt or a glass of milk instead; or, if you’re not dairy fan, try other calcium-rich foods like dark leafy greens.
Now I did say that ice-cream could help you sleep and it’s no lie. Here’s why… Bananas are rich in magnesium and vitamin B6, both of which promote feelings of happiness and calm (there’s that serotonin again!) They contain a good deal of potassium too, to help those tense muscles relax and they keep you fuller for longer. So, by simply freezing 2 bananas, adding a dash of almond milk for some extra sleep-promoting goodness and blending together, you get tasty, healthy homemade ice-cream that won’t keep you up all night. Yay!
Now you know the foods that can help you sleep, what’re you waiting for? Get to the kitchen, get snacking and get sleeping better than ever before!
Sweet dreams xoxo