I don’t know about you but I love my bed! And I firmly believe that a good night’s sleep can make you feel so good! Breathing, eating and sleeping are three of the most basic and essential functions we do as humans. But can food affect our sleep or does our sleep affect our food? The reality is that it is probably a bit of both…On average we need between 7-9 hours’ sleep per night with some people managing on less and others may need more. Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. However chronic poor sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
In general, research has found that eating in line with the Mediterranean or DASH diet, both of which promote fruits and vegetables, fiber rich foods and healthy mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tends to be associated with better quality sleep. Magnesium is a mineral that is reported to help with sleep regulation and is found in bananas, nuts, green vegetables, tofu and dairy. Melatonin is a micronutrient present in some foods but also a hormone that occurs naturally in the body and helps control sleep patterns. Melatonin, is found in tart cherry juice, eggs, nuts and dairy. Interestingly the tradition of hot milk before bed comes from Roman times… and milk contains both magnesium, melatonin and an amino acid called tryptophan which helps produce serotonin and melatonin.
Kiwifruit is another food that has been reported to have a positive impact on sleep duration and quality. In one four-week trial of adults with sleep problems, consumption of two kiwifruits per day one hour before bedtime significantly increased total sleep time and sleep efficiency. A potential reason for this is that they are a rich source of antioxidant and contain the hormone serotonin. Either way they are also great sources of vitamin C and great for keeping bowel movements regular.
Do you ever feel like you make poorer food choices when you’re tired? There may be good reason behind this. Sleep deprivation can cause a drop in Leptin levels (a hormone that signals fullness) and increases the hormone Ghrelin (hormone that stimulates appetite). This change in hormones can explain why you might eat more when missing sleep or why you tend to eat more without feeling full when you have had minimal sleep. US research from Cedar- Sinai Medical Centre also found that lack of sleep increased insulin resistance. So, we can see that regular good night sleep helps manage hormones, appetite and possible food choices.
Caffeine and alcohol can negatively affect falling asleep and sleep quality so best to keep within healthy limits if struggling with sleep. Maybe keep the caffeine to before midday!
Some sleepy bedtime snack ideas!
- Banana with Nut Butter
- Yogurt with chopped nuts or nut butter
- Hot milk with cinnamon
- 2 kiwis and some dark chocolate
- Cherry juice drink made with hot water
- Porridge topped with banana
- Oatcakes topped with cream cheese and berries
- Wholegrain cereal with milk
- Mixed nuts