Food For A Good Night's Sleep
By Doralise Halepis, Nutrition Student
When sleep is disrupted or your body doesn’t receive the rest it needs, it spells disaster for both your mental, and physical health. A not-so-good night’s sleep for some may be waking up a couple of times in the night; for others it’s a constant battle to get to sleep until the early hours of the morning. Either way, when sleep is interrupted or you’re body does not rest for as long as it needs to, it creates a disturbing ‘snowball’ effect. We feel tired and irritable, our concentration skills slip, our ability to feel positive deteriorates and the best food choices aren’t made. The food choices we make throughout the day have the ability to affect the quality of sleep we receive that night, not just what is consumed in the hours leading up to bed.
It is common knowledge that if you consume a cup of coffee an hour before bed, you’re going to have some difficulty getting to sleep. But how much of the stuff we drink during the day, combined with tea, chocolate and other caffeine containing products can also hinder us from a quality sleep. Everyone’s caffeine threshold is different, so it’s all about understanding your body and its limits. The best way to found out how much caffeine your body can handle is to consume two caffeine containing foods/drinks (no less than 4 hours before bed) and adjust your intake from there.
Contrary to the myth that carbs shouldn’t be consumed after 6pm, they are actually one of the best things to help get you to sleep. Carbohydrates, when eaten with a protein source, boost the level of tryptophan to the brain. Tryptophan assists your hormones to maintain a proper sleep/wake cycle and promotes the feeling of relaxation. An evening meal of lean meat, veggies, and a wholegrain carbohydrate is ideal for a good night’s sleep.
There is a strong correlation between the level of calcium in our system and the quality of sleep people experience. Studies show that those with calcium deficiency are at very high risk of insomnia and other sleep related issues. Like many Australians, there is a chance you are not meeting your daily calcium needs, detrimental not only to your sleep cycle but your physical health too. Calcium is found in abundance in dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, easily incorporated into a healthy diet. For the dairy-free, calcium requirements are still easily met when a diet contains variety, try incorporating fish, green leafy veggies, broccoli and soy products on a regular basis to assist these requirements.
Yet another reason to consume this amazing yellow fruit. Bananas are rich in potassium and B vitamins, responsible for stimulating melatonin production. Melatonin is yet another hormone linked to the sleep-wake cycle, helping you get to sleep and stay asleep.
It is quite clear that hormones play a major role in regulating a healthy sleep cycle. Poor diet, stress and medications can quite easily through off your hormone balance, resulting in a poor quality of sleep. If you believe your diet and lifestyle to be in check, consult a GP to help identify the problem and get you back on track.