Can eating certain foods help us sleep?
It’s a no brainer that coffee or caffeine before bed can be a sleep disrupter. But did your know that certain foods can be helpful to our sleep?
Melatonin is a hormone that is released in larger amounts as we get closer to bed time, the peak usually in the early evening to prep is for sleep at night time.
In the UK, melatonin is not available as supplement although is frequently found as on over the counter product in other countries such as the US. The good news is that we can help increase our natural melatonin production by what we eat.
Food rich in tryptophan ( trip-toe-fan) are also important to help increase our natural melatonin production.
Tryptophan is converted into serotonin – which is another chemical that’s part of the sleep jigsaw- and then this gets converted to melatonin.
Increasing melatonin naturally in the evening can help us sleep better and foods rich in tryptophan are one way to help with this
Specifically tart cherries, or sour montmorency cherries. Cherry juice was shown to reduce sleep problems when consumed twice a day in a study published in 2010*. Cherries have been found to be rich in melatonin and are a natural source of this sleep aiding hormone.
Packed with vitamin C and anti oxidants , kiwi fruits are healthy and tasty at any time of day. Research has also shown that in small studies, eating 2 kiwi fruits before bed helped people sleep better- that is, fall asleep more quickly and sleep for longer. This needs more research but one of the reasons for this is that kiwi fruits are high in serotonin. Which as we know, is important in the cycle of hormone and brain chemical release that is involved in getting us off to the land of nod.
Bananas contains carbohydrates that trigger tryptophan production which can promote sleep as well as muscle relaxing magnesium.
And to drink? Try warm milk
A long time favourite to help a good nights’ sleep – any warm drink before bed can help increase our body temperature ever so slightly which can help relax our muscles at bedtime.
But I thought you weren’t meant to eat before bed?
That is true in terms of eating a meal that takes time to digest but sometimes eating small amounts of foods that are light may sometimes help the sleep process such as a banana, some warm milk or natural yoghurt with s drizzle of honey might actually help us nod off.
Dr Clara Russell