Sleep is precious for your body to heal and rejuvenate. Good sleep hygiene will help you to live a beautiful life, from the inside out! Some of us require more beauty sleep than others, but on average it’s considered crucial to get at least 7 hours each night to keep our mind happy and body healthy.
After a couple of restless nights it might be tempting to turn to sleeping pills or other pharmaceuticals to knock you into a deep slumber, without considering all of the harmful side effects these pills can have. The good news is there are lifestyle changes you can make to naturally help you get the sleep you deserve in order to stay refreshed, alert and at your absolute best. It’s time to use food as medicine and treat your local farmer’s market and grocer as your farm-acy.
Indulging in a mega-meal right before bed can cause a bad night sleep, but did you know that some nutrient rich foods can actually improve your quality of sleep? Follow this quick guide to your natural sleep farmacy and prepare to sleep like a baby.
Calcium, more than just strong bones. This powerful nutrient helps the cells in your brain to use tryptophan to create melatonin - your body's naturally produced sleep aid. Calcium levels should be at its highest during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. For those who never get into this restorative sleep phase, calcium deficiency may be to blame. So make sure to sneak in some high calcium foods, such as cooked kale, sardines, yogurt, broccoli, bok choy, almonds or raw milk.
Magnesium, mineral relaxation. Magnesium is known as the soothing mineral - and for good reason. A lack of magnesium in the diet could likely be the reason you’re having problems falling or staying asleep. Having enough magnesium is essential for the body to induce deep sleep, and incase I haven’t convinced you to up your calcium intake already - having calcium and magnesium together will boost their absorption into your body. Some foods high in magnesium are spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt and kefir, almonds, avocado and dark chocolate.
Calm down with Passion Flower. Just as the name suggests, this plant has a gentle, anti-anxiety, restful effect on the body. Anyone who has struggled with anxiety before knows it can keep you up until the wee hours of the morning when your brain just won’t switch off - this is where passion flower comes in. Studies have shown passion flower to be just as effective as common over-the-counter anti-anxiety medications, without the drowsiness the next day.
Introducing Tryptophan, the superhero sleep nutrient. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning the body cannot make it on its own, so it must be supplied through diet. It is used by the body to make a B vitamin that is important for digestion, skin and nerves, and especially for serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical, known as the “happy hormone”, that affects your mood, gives you a feeling of relaxation and helps you sleep better. To get your brain into that perfect pre snooze state dig into some tryptophan foods such as poultry, yogurt, nuts and seeds, cheese, lamb, fish, and eggs.
The anti-sleep bites. Just as some foods will help you snooze, others will do the opposite. Below are my top 4 foods to avoid for better sleep.
Coffee. Each of our bodies take a different length of time to process caffeine. For many the effect of one coffee can take 12 hours to process. Try cutting out your afternoon cuppa and drink your joe before midday to stay in the clear.
Sugar. Having sweet treats before bed will spike your blood sugar and keep you awake. Try swapping your regular chocolate bar for some sugar free dark chocolate - this will even give you a little dose of Magnesium.
Alcohol. Drinking before bed can drastically affect your sleep quality. As a general rule, put down your last bev at least 2 hours before bed.
Fatty foods. Healthy fats are an essential part of a balanced diet, but try not to have them too late in the night as it can lead to digestion. Give your belly at least a couple of hours to do its digesting before diving into bed.
If you’re anything like me, you too might love a sneaky nanna nap in the afternoon. Well, all nap lovers rejoice! Napping can improve mood, performance and alertness - but keep your snoozes under 30 minutes. Also don’t forget to keep active! Moving your body as little as 10 minutes a day can drastically improve sleep quality. If all these tips seem overwhelming, don’t fret, just make your changes in baby steps. Your body will thank you later!
As mentioned previously, although sleeping pills can get you to sleep, they are a quick fix that can cause problems later. Sleeping pills slow your breathing which can be extremely dangerous for anyone with asthma or lung-related issues. They can also cause changes in appetite, diarrhoea, drowsiness the following day, headaches, heartburn, stomach issues, lack of concentration, and issues with memory.
So skip the pharmacy and go natural!
Happy snoozing x
Shannon Rosie is a holistic nutritionist specialising in gut health. She strives to educate her clients to use their food as medicine so they can live a balanced, happy and healthy life - without ever having to “diet” again! https://shannonrosie.com