Everyone knows that you need between seven to nine hours of a sleep a night, but of course there’s always a debate if this is too much or too little. Scientists on both sides of the aisle cannot agree on how many hours of sleep are critical for our bodies. Putting the debate aside for a minute, we want to focus on how you can help your body get those much needed ZZZ’s. And there is a trick to getting some sleep, food. Better yet, eating the right foods before heading to bed.
A 2011 study by the Taipei Medical University shows that eating two kiwi fruits before bed can lead to a better nights sleep. Why? Mainly because kiwis have high levels of serotonin, which is crucial to sleep. Granted not many believe in the study as it only had 24 participants but we’ll let the results speak for themselves.
Poultry and nuts
Turkey and chicken both contain high levels of tryptophan, which help boost serotonin. “Foods that are high in tryptophan and vitamin B6 will help you make melatonin, the sleep hormone,” said Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert and author of Fast Asleep, Wide Awake. Other sources includes beans, lentils, cheese, tofu, tuna, eggs, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Better yet, you can consume melatonin itself. “This would include things such as tart cherries, cherry juice and oats,” Ramlakhan adds.
Bananas and leafy vegetables
“Foods that are high in potassium and magnesium help to relax the muscles because a lot of people suffer from things such as restless legs,” says Ramlakhan. What are some good sources of magnesium? Whole grains, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables. Otherwise some potassium-rich foods are bananas, potatoes, apricots and milk.
A study recently by the University of Colorado Boulder discovered that prebiotic fibre, found in foods like chickpeas, artichokes and leeks, which feed “good” bacteria in the gut, may help to improve sleep. True, the study was done on rats so we’ll have to wait a bit before we know its effects on humans.
A recent Columbia University study with 26 volunteers uncovered that a diet rich in fibre – foods like beans, lentils, berries and whole grains – might lead to better sleep, while a diet with a “greater intake of saturated fat and lower intake of fibre were associated with a lighter, less deep sleep profile”.
And it matters when you eat
“A lot of people feel sleepy after a big meal because they overeat and the rate of change in their blood sugar stimulates the insulin response which sedates them,” Ramlakhan says. “It’s not just what you eat, it’s also your patterns of eating that make a difference. Make sure you eat breakfast – it stabilizes blood sugar and minimizes your production of adrenaline.” All of this will help to produce melatonin later.