Nutrition for Sleep Support
Sleep. This magical five-letter word is elusive to so many of us. Whether it’s difficulty falling asleep or tossing and turning all night long, insomnia is becoming endemic to our modern-day society. Chronic sleep deprivation leaves us physically, mentally, and emotionally depleted as well as affecting our cognitive functioning.
Sleeping pills can cause side effects (i), so what’s an exhausted, bleary-eyed person to do then? Nutrition can play an important role in helping you get a good night’s rest but it can also be one of the reasons why you are not getting a good night sleep. Eating too large of a meal close to bedtime may impair sleep, having unbalanced blood sugars, skipping meals and consuming to many stimulants such as caffeine and chocolate and consuming refined carbohydrates and sugar can all be a problem that can negatively impact sleep.
Top Five Foods Recommended to Support Sleep
- Bananas are high in Tryptophan which converts to serotonin, which in the absence of light converts to melatonin – an important initiator of sleep. Melatonin, is a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles so is very helpful for people that have difficulties with regular sleep patterns or struggling with jet lag. Bananas are also a good source of potassium and magnesium, natural muscle relaxants. Other foods high in tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tuna, and you guessed it: turkey. (ii)
- Tart cherries help increase the body’s natural melatonin production. Other fruits such as pineapples and oranges have also been shown to significantly increase the presence of melatonin. (iii)
- Oats are a source of complex carbohydrates that stimulate the release of serotonin and allow a more restorative sleep. (iv)
- Almonds are rich in magnesium, which relaxes muscles and helps you unwind, inducing that sleepy state you feel before falling asleep.
- Tea Chamomile and passionflower teas can help relax nerves and muscles and help you sleep more soundly.
If you find you need a little more sleep support, consider taking some natural supplements.
- Magnesium deficiency is so common nowadays, boosting your intake with a supplement could do wonders for you. Try taking 400mg of magnesium glycinate before going to bed. This is best for people that struggle with sleep due to stress, anxiety, pain or difficulty relaxing.
- Melatonin is the most popular natural aid for sleep and can be very effective for those suffering from insomnia. Try taking 1-3mg before bedtime for a few weeks to help reset your sleep/wake cycle. Some people find they do not absorb melatonin in a pill form and require a liquid form. This is best for people struggling with jet lag or have disruptions in their sleep wake cycle.
- Finally, avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. While they may induce sleep initially, they are known to disrupt deeper sleep cycles.
Sleep is essential for maintaining good health. Keep a sleep journal and see what works best for you. Sleep tight!
i. Proctor, Ashley, and Matt T. Bianchi. “Clinical Pharmacology in Sleep Medicine.” ISRN Pharmacology 2012 (2012): 914168. PMC. Web. 12 July 2018.
ii. Johns NP, Johns J, Porasuphatana S, Plaimee P, Sae-Teaw M. “Dietary intake of melatonin from tropical fruit altered urinary excretion of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in healthy volunteers”. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. 2013 Jan 30;61(4):913-919
iii. McCune L.M., Kubota C., Stendell-Hollis N.R., Thomson C.A. Cherries and health: A review. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 2011;51:1–12. doi: 10.1080/10408390903001719
iv.. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 2, 1 February 2007, Pages 426–430, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.2.426
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