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10 Best foods for a good night’s sleep

Health and Wellbeing

Getting a good night’s sleep is very important for your health. Sleep can affect everything from your mood to your immune system, and getting enough of it can keep your brain healthy, lower inflammation, improve productivity and reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses.

There are several ways you can improve the quality of your sleep, and tweaking your diet is one of them. It helps to avoid certain foods before bedtime, such as fried foods, caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and energy drinks, alcohol and spicy food. Think about consuming more minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron, which can boost the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep regulation. Here are some of the best food and drinks which have sleep-promoting properties.

Almonds

Just a handful of almonds will send you to sleep in no time. These nuts are a great source of magnesium and melatonin, which naturally reduce muscle and nerve function as well as steadying your heartbeat. Magnesium also reduces the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which interrupts sleep. Almond butter can also have the same effect – spread some on a cracker or a banana before bed.

Walnuts

Like almonds, walnuts are another nut which are rich in nutrients and melatonin. They contain over 19 vitamins and minerals, and have particularly high amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and copper. They’re also an excellent source of healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid which contribute to better sleep.

Fatty fish

Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel are all great for your overall health as well as sleep quality. They have high levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which increase the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain which helps to regulate the sleep cycle. The combination of these two nutrients is a powerful sleep enhancer.

Turkey

Ever wonder why you feel so sleepy after a Christmas lunch? It could be the amount you’ve eaten – but it could also be the turkey. Turkey is high in protein which has the ability to promote tiredness. Consuming protein before bed is linked to better sleep quality. Turkey also contains the amino acid tryptophan which boosts the production of melatonin.

Chamomile tea

Although it’s not a food, chamomile tea is one of the best-known drinks to help you sleep. It doesn’t actually contain any tea, as it’s more of a herbal infusion made from the dried flowers of the chamomile plant. Chamomile tea contains antioxidants such as apidenin which binds to receptors in the brain that encourage sleepiness and reduce insomnia. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea around 45 minutes before bed gives your body enough time to metabolise the tea.

White rice

White rice is a staple in many countries around the world. It’s high in carbohydrates and lacks fibre, which contributes to its high glycemic index (GI), a measure of how fast a food increases your blood sugar. Foods with a high GI can improve sleep quality if eaten at least one hour before bed. That being said, white rice should be consumed in moderation as it doesn’t contain many nutrients or fibre.

Tart cherries

Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin. Drinking tart cherry juice before bed can promote sleepiness, and has even been studied for its role in treating insomnia. Fresh tart cherries are harder to find than the normal sweet ones, so you’ll more likely find them frozen, dried or in juice form.

Bananas

Bananas are a great source of magnesium and potassium, both being natural muscle and nerve relaxants. Foods high in magnesium are linked to lower stress and anxiety levels, and consuming bananas before bed may help to release stress before you sleep. The vitamin B6 content in bananas also works to increase serotonin, helping you relax even more.

Kiwi

Kiwis contain a high amount of nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K and 71% of the Daily Value for vitamin C. Kiwis are also rich in serotonin and antioxidants which are responsible for improving sleep quality. Studies have shown that people who consumed two kiwis an hour before bed fell asleep quicker, slept for longer and woke up less in the middle of the night.

Figs

Figs are rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron, making them a powerful sleep aid. These minerals all help with blood flow and muscle contraction which are crucial for falling asleep. They also contain high amounts of fibre, keeping you full through the night and preventing midnight cravings.

Learn more about healthy eating by reading our blog What is Healthy Eating?

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