HOW FOOD CAN HELP YOU SLEEP
A FEW TWEAKS TO YOUR SHOPPING LIST MAY BE JUST WHAT YOU NEED!
When it comes to our general physical and mental wellbeing, very few things make us feel better than a decent night’s sleep. But if you sometimes find it difficult to nod off, help may be at hand. Studies show that certain foods may help us sleep. Nutritionist, nurse, naturopath and founder of thewellnessgroup.net.au Madeline Calfas takes us through the nutrients that can help us get a decent night’s shut-eye.
Also known as the sleep hormone, melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle. While we produce melatonin naturally through our brain’s pineal gland, it can also be found in plenty of foods. Madeline says dairy products, asparagus, corn, olives, poultry, seafood and walnuts are all good sources, as are avocados, bananas, broccoli, legumes and spinach.
“Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is converted to melatonin,” Madeline explains. “It’s found in poultry, eggs (especially the egg whites), red meat, seafood, dairy, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.”
It turns out calcium isn’t just good for your bones – it can also help you to fall asleep! This multipurpose mineral plays an important role in our body’s production of melatonin. Madeline says common food sources include “green snap peas, cheese, okra, sardines, leafy greens, seeds such as poppy seeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds, almonds, beans and lentils”.
Like calcium, vitamin B6 helps our bodies convert tryptophan to melatonin. “Vitamin B6 is found in herbs and spices such as cayenne pepper, tarragon, oregano and paprika, as well as foods like pistachios, garlic, sunflower seeds, salmon, liver, turkey, hazelnuts, walnuts, chickpeas and tuna,” says Madeline.
“Magnesium helps promote sleep by reducing stress-induced cortisol levels,” Madeline says. “Cortisol is a stress hormone that is designed to help maintain your energy levels, and helps to keep you awake.” For a restful night of shut-eye, opt for magnesium-rich foods like salmon, tuna, halibut, bananas, avocados and Brazil nuts – as well as dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that relaxes your body and mind into sleep. It isn’t naturally available in foods, but some foods contain precursors that your body uses to make GABA. “Almonds, whole wheat and whole grain, halibut, beef liver, potato, broccoli, spinach, bananas and oranges all contain GABA precursors,” Madeline says. “Passionflower and green teas can help, too.”
WHAT TO AVOID
Food and drinks that are high in caffeine (including coffee, tea, soft drinks and dark chocolate) not only make it hard to nod off, but can also shorten your sleep time. And while alcohol might make you feel tired, it actually stops you from falling into a deep, Reminducing sleep. It’s also a good idea to avoid eating anything that’s hard to digest before bedtime. That rules out anything too spicy, or late-night snacks that are high in protein or fat.