From Halloween to New Year, the winter months bring seasonal treats in bucket loads. Sugary, fatty goodies can play a large part in upsetting our metabolism and ultimately our sleep. And when we feel tired, we often crave more of those foods which can make us feel more tired.......Combined with fewer daylight hours and hormonal shifts we can feel even more tired and sluggish.
Sufficient, quality sleep is vital if we are to function and remain sane on the run up to Christmas (sshhh I know it's still a while to go yet!). So here are some suggestions to keep you on the straight and narrow and sleeping like a baby!
Bed time snacks
- Seeds and nuts for calming, sleep inducing Tryptophan. Found in protein rich foods, we convert Tryptophan into the key feel-good hormone serotonin. Serotonin is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood which is why Tryptophan in the Christmas turkey is sometimes attributed to making people sleepy (nothing to do with the huge amount of food eaten then?!)
- Bananas for Potassium and Magnesium. Both of these minerals play a role in muscle function - an extra dose may help induce muscle relaxation - great if you suffer with twitchy / restless leg syndrome, or have had a late session at the gym.
- Cashew nuts, avocado and dark chocolate (not necessarily all together!) are also rich in Magnesium. Magnesium interrupts Adrenalin (the hormone that is central to our stress response) and is also really important in hormone the production of calming hormones. Melatonin, GABA and Dopamine production are all supported by Magnesium and may help induce a restful state.
- A mug of warm milk. Milk is not famous for it's high Tryptophan content so it may not be entirely responsible for making us sleepy. It may simply be the comforting memories from childhood that help soothe the mind and body, helping us prepare for sleep. Worth a go don't you think?
- Kiwis! Rich in both Vitamin C and serotonin, an interesting study showed having 2 kiwi fruit an hour before bed meant they dropped off to sleep 35% faster. That's pretty significant and I've heard lots of other anecdotal evidence of this too!
- Tart cherry juice. A more pricey option but interesting nonetheless! Montmorency cherries help maintain Tryptophan levels (so we can make more Serotonin) and produce high levels of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control our sleep and wake cycles; basically making us feel sleepy at bedtime and awake in the morning. One study showed that having a shot of tart cherry juice am and pm increased their sleep by an hour a night!
- Try a sleepy tea. Thankfully, mainstream tea makers offer blends of different herbs such as Valerian (well known for its sedative effect), lemon balm, peppermint and lavender create teas that make a much nicer cuppa in my opinion than good old fashioned Chamomile. Why not take advantage of their calming and soothing properties in a pre-bedtime cuppa, rather than an alcoholic tipple?
- Go green. Another option is green tea. If you are sensitive to caffeine then this probably isn't the best option but if you are looking to wean yourself off caffeine, green tea contains about half the caffeine as black tea and much less than coffee. Green tea contains 2 metabolites of caffeine called theophylline and theobromine which gives a more subtle boost compared to coffee. Another component of interest is L-theanine: this helps induce relaxation which can help to 'take the edge off' caffeine and could be a good option if you are struggling to nod off.
Don't forget food alone often won't solve sleep problems but you can check out my last blog on sleep for some extra tips!
If you have any tried and tested methods that work for you, I'd love to hear about them!