Sleep is extremely important for our health and wellbeing and there are certain foods that we can include in our diets that help to improve our sleep. Here we run you through our top nutrition foods to include and avoid or limit to help you get a good night’s sleep!
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in lean protein foods, it is converted into 5-HTP in the body which is used to make hormones serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone as it contributes to happiness and wellbeing. Melatonin is involved in regulating your sleep-wake cycle and levels are typically highest in the evening and throughout the night, levels then slowly decrease when you being to wake in the morning.
Consuming foods high in protein such as chicken, turkey and fish increases the amount of tryptophan in the body and pairing these with complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains, quinoa, potato, beans etc also helps to increase the availability of it in the brain, meaning we can use it to help us sleep.
Carbohydrates play an important role in our sleep by increasing the availability of tryptophan in the brain. Research has shown that there may be a link between very low carbohydrate diets and insomnia. This is thought to be due to a reduction in the hormones serotonin and melatonin.
Research also shows that following a Mediterranean style diet is associated with better quality of sleep, this includes eating more plant based foods, lean meats, seafood, olive oil and reducing foods such as red meat and refined foods.
There are also foods that we should limit in our diet as they can impact our sleep, these include:
- Caffeine – For those who struggle with their sleep, try to avoid drinking caffeine after 2pm as this can impact your ability to fall sleep as well as the quality of your sleep
- Alcohol – although alcohol can help you get to sleep fairly quickly it affects the quality of your sleep, in particular your REM sleep, which can lead to disruptive night’s sleep, leaving you feeling far from refreshed.
- Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods – these foods may reduce serotonin levels and impair your sleep
See below our meal strategies that you can follow to assist and improve your sleep:
- Now we aren’t saying you need to give up your cup of coffee but It may be beneficial to avoid caffeine after 2pm, this gives your body more time to metabolise it and get it out of your system before bed time
- Ensure your meals especially dinner contain lean protein and complex carbohydrates to increase levels and availability of tryptophan
- Include more plant based foods and follow a Mediterranean style diet