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Eat your way to good sleep

How your food routine can affect the quality of your rest

What you choose to eat and drink during the day is one of the major factors in how well you’ll rest and recover at night. There’s a huge amount that can be done with your daily food routine to enhance good sleep, so make sure that you are always vigilant with the selections you make.

Common sleep robbers in your diet are:

• Sugary snacks

• Sweet drinks

• Caffeine

• Alcohol

• Irregular eating

• Eating too much

• Not eating enough

The main issue with all of these sleep robbers is that they disrupt our blood sugar and energy levels during the day, which will impact dramatically on our ability to sleep at night. You can read more about this process in the factsheet ‘Managing blood sugar and energy levels’

The meals and snacks in your healthy eating resources are all designed to help you regulate your energy levels, feel great all day, and achieve your weight management objectives.

Remember that everything you do through the day can contribute positively or negatively towards your sleep routine, so always aim to be proactive and have a plan rather than being reactive and letting the rhythms of the day dictate your choices.

Healthy sleeping food choices

There are some common foods that contribute towards good sleep. Here are a few specific examples:

  • Bananas contain magnesium and potassium, which are both natural muscle relaxants, helping you to stay calm during the day and ready to sleep at night.

  • Nuts also contain magnesium, e.g. walnuts and almonds

  • Turkey contains tryptophan, as does tuna, hummus, eggs and yoghurt. Tryptophan is an amino acid, which helps with the production of sleep inducing brain chemicals serotonin and melatonin.

  • Kale and spinach contain lots of calcium which helps the brain use tryptophan to produce melatonin

  • Cherries are a natural source of melatonin so great to feature regularly in your diet

  • Sweet potatoes provide slow release energy and also contain potassium to relax you.

  • Oatcakes can stimulate the release of insulin, which helps to clear amino acids that compete with tryptophan from the bloodstream, allowing more of this sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain.

  • Lettuce contains lactucarium which has sedative qualities

  • Honey and a little burst of sweetness in the evening can inhibit the production of chemicals that promote alertness

  • Bread, rice and pasta are all carbohydrates that will produce a quick rise in blood sugar, followed by a drop so, time your intake right and you could turn the blood sugar drop into sleep.

  • Jasmine rice has been shown to be particularly helpful in inducing sleep.

Having trouble sleeping?

Take a look at what you eat, when you eat it, and how much you eat

To keep your system calm during the day and to help you sleep at night, aim to include protein with every meal or snack you consume.

Allow your body time to process your last meal of the day before retiring but if you find yourself eating late, shift the balance of your meal or snack slightly in favour of more carbohydrates in the form of rice, pasta, cereals or bread, ideally whole-meal versions, and slightly away from protein or fat which can be slower to digest and keep you awake.

If you’re really struggling...have a glass of milk

Milk contains tryptophan which has led to the belief in many people that drinking milk before bedtime will help you sleep. It may also be that warm milk creates a mild rise in body temperature, following which, as the temperature drops we find it easier to sleep. Or it may be that night time milk often comes in the form of hot chocolate or cocoa, either of which will trigger a lift in blood sugar, which is followed by a dip in blood sugar that will make you drowsy.

Whatever the specific cause in your case, it’s worth experimenting to see if milk can become a simple sleep aid you can rely on.



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