Foods that can help you sleep well
The connection between sleep and diet is not a simple one. Many aspects, including physical and mental health, exposure to light, and other underlying physical issue, affect sleep. Diet too is multifaceted. Individuals can have distinct reactions to different diets, making it hard to generalise about the perfect regimen to good eating for everyone.
Getting good sleep is extremely important for overall health. It keeps our brain healthy, and boost the immune system. Insufficient or poor quality sleep is linked with a wide variety of health problems, including, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and depression.
Sleep is regulated by hormones and chemicals in the brain; the food we eat can affect the levels of these chemicals namely, melatonin and serotonin, tryptophan, etc. There is no single food that is guaranteed to help with sleep rather there are strategies, which can help us sleep better. These include making changes to our diet, among many things.
What to eat to get good sleep
Almonds and other nuts
Almonds are a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats, fibres, and antioxidants. They are also excellent sources of nutrient like magnesium. Nuts are great sources of melatonin, which regulates our 'physical clock' and signals the body to prepare for sleep! Magnesium helps people suffering from insomnia. It helps reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
The fatty acid found in walnuts may also contribute to better sleep. They supply alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, which is converted to DHA in the body. DHA may increase serotonin production. If you struggle to sleep, eating some almonds or walnuts before going to bed may help. A handful is an adequate portion.
White meat may be a great food to eat before bed due to its high amounts of protein and tryptophan, both of which may induce tiredness. Fatty sea fishes have innumerable health properties. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in fatty fish has the potential to enhance sleep quality. They both increase the production of serotonin.
Dairy products and fruits
Milk, cottage cheese, and plain yoghurt are known sources of tryptophan. Research indicates that milk can improve sleep in older adults, especially when paired with light exercise. The tryptophan and B vitamins in dairy products may act as natural sleep aids. Bananas also contain tryptophan and the fruit is also a modest source of magnesium. Kiwis are rich in serotonin and antioxidants, and cherry contains the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
White rice and oatmeal
Eating foods with a high glycaemic index (GI), such as white rice, at least 1 hour before bed may help improve sleep. However, white rice should be consumed in moderation due to the comparative low amounts of fibre and nutrients they contain.
Similar to rice, oatmeal is high in carbs. Additionally, oats are a known source of melatonin.
What to avoid
Caffeine! The body takes about six hours to metabolise caffeine, so drinking or eating foods with high caffeine content is not suggested in the afternoon or evening when its effects can keep us up at night. Sugary beverages and sweets are tied to bad sleep. The impact of carbohydrates on sleep is influenced by what is consumed with them. A combination of protein and carbohydrates may make it easier for the tryptophan present in protein rich foods to reach the brain.
Avoid eating too late
Some foods may help with sleep in general, they are less likely to be effective if sleep hygiene is poor. Noisy atmosphere, bright lights, sleeping with electronic devices switched on may suppress melatonin production and counteract the benefits of sleep-promoting food.
Photo: LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne Sayed