Getting a good night’s sleep is something we often take for granted – until something goes wrong. With our busy lifestyles, crammed full of deadlines, family commitments and with little time for rest and relaxation, it’s no wonder our sleep can suffer. There is no doubting that lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation, results in a wide range of negative impacts on our bodies, in some cases even causing long-term health issues.
With sleep being such a vital component of our health, it’s wise not to be complacent about it. But, before you feel pressured by being told to get to be earlier, exercise more, or practice mediation (which are ALL important for your health as well!) consider how you can nutritionally support you body to feel happier and healthier, aiding its healing and recovery as you dream the nights away…
Bananas- These superfruits are filled with potassium and magnesium, two minerals that help muscle relaxation. Magnesium deficiencies are related to restless leg syndrome and night-time muscle cramps, two conditions that can certainly interfere with sleep.
Cherries- All varieties of cherries are naturally high in melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Eat a cup of whole cherries as a late-night snack or drink 1 cup of tart cherry juice to aid sleep.
Fish- Fish are rich in tryptophan, a natural sedative, with shrimp, cod, tuna and salmon having the highest levels, even more than turkey.
Chamomile- Chamomile has been used as an herbal remedy for insomnia for thousands of years. It calms the nervous system, increases circulation and is easy to find in all supermarkets.
Spinach- As well as being rich in potassium and magnesium, spinach is high in calcium, another mineral that plays an important role in sleep. Calcium helps the body produce melatonin, the hormone that helps your body maintain its circadian rhythm. (deep restorative sleep) You can get the same benefits from other dark leafy greens, such as Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens and collard greens.
Low Fat Dairy- Along with spinach, airy products are also rich in melatonin-boosting calcium.
Almonds- They’re full of magnesium and another source of calcium. You can eat a handful of almonds or spread some almond-butter on a piece of whole grain bread.
Carbohydrate/Protein Combination- Getting tryptophan from high-protein foods can work against your sleep rhythm, because for some people, protein can prevent tryptophan from entering your brain. But when you combine high-protein foods with carbohydrates (healthy carbs!), the insulin your body produces in response to the carbohydrates makes it easier for tryptophan to break through your brain’s barriers. For example, oats or warm quinoa porridge with bananas and almonds, or whole-grain cereal with organic milk.
Lemon Balm- Mint- This lemon-scented member of the mint family is most effective in combination with another herb called Valerian. Both can be purchased as supplements, or you can make a tea by steeping 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried lemon balm and 1 teaspoon of valerian root in 1 cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. (If you take other medications, check with your pharmacist or gp about any potential herb-drug interactions.)