Eating certain foods could be the fastest way towards a better night’s sleep.
The idea that the foods we eat can both positively and adversely affect our sleep has existed since the 1970’s when the concept of the gut and brain connection was first discovered. It was widely noted that food had a sedative effect on both humans and animals. After all, who doesn’t feel like a nap after they’ve eaten a big meal?
Our diets have changed dramatically since the 1970s however, and in light of the health awakening that has occurred over the past few years, we are now carefully assessing the nutrients which we digest, and their subsequent effects on our bodies and day-to-day lives.
In fact, researchers have been able to pinpoint which nutrients help to induce sleep and uncover some of the mystery shrouding our sleep patterns.
Some of the most promising new studies have confirmed the positive influence of protein intake on sleep, as well as micronutrients like magnesium and zinc and their influence on sleep duration.
So what can we do to promote a good night’s sleep? Here are our top tips.
Consider your macronutrients
Macronutrients are the nutrients that your body needs in large amounts to function – these are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. In a study conducted last year, it was proven that higher fat and protein diets were associated with better sleep quality, while higher carbohydrate intake resulted in significantly shorter wake times.
Protein stands out more than any other macronutrient for its ability to promote healthy sleep. Eating foods high in protein during the day and at night can help to induce better sleep quality. Not only will it help you to fall asleep, but it will also help you to stay asleep. Protein contains amino acids such as tryptophan which help the body produce serotonin and melatonin, regulating your sleep and wake cycles.
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 44 participants over 16 weeks. Those who consumed more protein (1.5 g of protein for each kg of body weight) all reported a significant improvement in sleep quality after four months of following the diet.
Avoid sugar and processed foods
If you tend to have broken sleep, or trouble staying asleep, this may be reflective of your diet. If you’ve eaten sugar or a diet high in simple carbohydrates that day, you can probably expect to wake up in the middle of the night. This is because foods high in sugar and simple carbs can unbalance your blood sugar levels and reduce the activity of a neuropeptide called orexin which regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
This one is obvious – caffeine, especially when consumed late in the day, can disrupt sleep. This is because caffeine is a stimulant that can delay the timing of your circadian rhythm.
Alcohol is not something advisable to have much of in your diet, particularly for sleep. Although alcohol is a depressant that can help you to fall asleep faster, it also contributes to poorer sleep quality. It can inhibit REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is one of the most restorative stages of the sleep cycle.
Sunshine and exercise
Aside from food, two things that promote a good night’s sleep include exposure to sunlight and exercise.
Many studies have shown that exposure to bright sunlight can increase the body’s melatonin production. 10-30 minutes of sunlight each day should be enough, depending on how sensitive your skin is to the sun. Exposure to sunlight also helps us to produce Vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient for sleep.
There is also a well-studied consensus that exercise positively influences sleep quality in adults. It does so by increasing the slow-wave stages of sleep cycles, which are the most restorative stages of sleep. Exercise can also lower your cortisol levels, cause you to feel sleepy, and help the brain to produce endorphins, all which help to increase the quality of your slumber.
Natural sleep supplements to try
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that can help to support healthy sleep. It does this by addressing stress-related exhaustion and helping the adrenal system to regulate hormones. Ashwagandha also has the ability to lower cortisol levels, which is helpful because elevated cortisol is one of the main causes of disturbed sleep.
For the reasons mentioned above, it is a good idea to add a protein source to your diet if you wish to increase the quality of your sleep. A high-quality protein powder is an easy way of increasing your daily protein intake.
Dietary zinc has been proven to increase the amount and quality of sleep. Zinc is one of the three minerals that have a sedative effect of the human nervous system. It also has restorative effects and is essential for many biological processes. Zinc tablets are easy enough to find at your local pharmacy and have many health benefits.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for health, and it is a powerful sleep aid. It does this by helping your brain and body to relax and regulating neurotransmitters which can help to calm the nervous system and improve sleep quality. In fact, if you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet, then you will experience sleep problems. An easy way to supplement magnesium is to try stirring a high-quality magnesium powder into a glass of water once a day.
About the Writer
At Bare Blends we take a holistic approach to your nutrition and wellness; producing delicious natural and organic superfood blends that nourish and nurture an active body and mind. All products are sugar and gluten free. From Kakadu to the Andean ranges, we’ve selected the highest quality ancient, raw and organic superfoods and combined them with Australian and New Zealand whey proteins. We believe we make the best tasting natural protein powder in Australia.