If you’re finding yourself struggling to sleep at night, what do you do? Do you toss and turn for hours, do you read a book until you physically can’t keep your eyes open…or do you try and work out the cause? It may surprise you to find out that it could be your diet that is actually keeping you awake at night.
When we were younger, a cup of warm milk was often our parents’ way of making us tired. However, scientists have suggested that there are other food solutions that may actually help us more than a milky drink in the evenings.
One important thing to remember is that an excess of caffeine can disturb your sleeping patterns, so stick to decaffeinated drinks later in the day. Once the caffeine is in your body, it can take around six hours for just half of it to wear off, meaning that your sleep could well be affected.
Large meals in the evenings can also make it harder to get to sleep. Filling your stomach late in the evening means that your body needs to work hard to digest the food, increasing the flow of blood to your digestive system and stimulating rather than relaxing it. Eat less heavy meals – and earlier in the evening – to improve your chance of a good night’s sleep.
You may also find that herbal teas – such as those made with camomile or valerian – can help you to drift off. Both of these plants contain ingredients that work as natural sedatives, helping you to feel more sleepy and relaxed in the evening.
When it comes to your evening meals, consider including ingredients that help your body to produce more tryptophan: an amino acid that can help to make you tired. Jasmine rice, walnuts, honey, poultry and crustaceans such as prawns and lobster are all either good sources of tryptophan, or help the body to produce more of this amino acid that is vital for sleep.
Finally, make sure you’re eating enough – those on extremely low calories diets may be lacking in vital nutrients that can actually help us to sleep. A low intake of folic acid in particular has been linked with insomnia, so it’s important to make sure that you’re not only eating the right foods but that you’re eating enough if you want a great night’s sleep.