Getting into bed with freshly washed, soft sheets is probably one of the best feelings in the world. It’s a peaceful ritual we all treasure and look forward to night after night – that moment when your body feels as light as a feather and all your busy thoughts disappear.
We spend one third of our lives sleeping, with a recommended night’s sleep spanning seven to eight hours, but quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep. Using food alone, you can increase the quality twofold and ensure that your body recuperates the way it needs to in order to have a productive and energetic day ahead. The aim of the game is to help your body produce a hormone called melatonin. This is the body’s main “sleep hormone”; it naturally increases close to bedtime and decreases as we wake up.
Here, discover the foods that contain the vitamins and minerals your body needs to help you drift off into a dreamy slumber and get a restful night in this busy city we call home.
These juicy, “peachy’” fruits have far more to offer than a refreshing bite. They contain one of the highest naturally occurring concentrations of melatonin. Most foods contain natural substances that help the body produce melatonin, but cherries actually contain the hormone itself.
Most nuts and seeds are a good source of L-tryptophan; it’s one of the amino acids that our bodies cannot produce by themselves. Therefore, the only way to get it is by ingesting it. Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest sources of L-tryptophan, and they can easily be incorporated into dinners or eaten alone as an evening snack. Once they’re inside the body, they are converted into a chemical called serotonin (otherwise known as the “happy hormone”), which helps with mood, relaxation, and therefore sleep.
This may surprise you, as oats are typically eaten for breakfast as a kick-start to the day, but in fact this warming bowl is a brilliant way to aid a good night’s sleep. Oats are a natural source of melatonin and also contain the sleep-inducing amino acid L-tryptophan. Cooked through with calcium-rich milk, they make for a perfect bedtime pairing. Calcium levels are directly related to cycles of sleep and have been proven to be at their highest during deep sleep.
Dark Leafy Greens
These nutrient-packed foods range from kale and spinach to collard greens. The reason why these already well-known superfoods are great for sleep is because they are loaded with an essential mineral, magnesium. It helps to deactivate the adrenaline hormone that’s responsible for increasing our heart rate, and it acts as a relaxant. It’s otherwise known as the “sleep mineral”. Along with dark leafy greens, fish, bananas, and avocados are also great sources of magnesium.
All you need to remember is banana = B vitamins. Bananas are one of the richest sources of B6, a real powerhouse vitamin. Not only does it help with the production of melatonin, but a lack of B6 has been linked with depression, mood disorders, and lowered serotonin levels.
Just as these foods will help you get a restful and peaceful night’s sleep, there are others that you should steer clear of in the hours leading up to bedtime. The commonly known caffeine and high-sugar foods and drinks are a sure way to keep you ticking at night, but spicy foods and high-fat foods could prove to be a problem too. Spicy foods increase the body’s metabolism and brain activity, which will keep you up and can cause indigestion that is made worse by lying down on a bed, while high-fat foods take a long time to digest and cause a build-up of stomach acids. They will keep you awake for longer and the quality of your sleep will be lowered due to the work your body is doing.