World Sleep Day: Nutritionist's Tips to Help you Doze off Quicker and Easier
Sleep is an essential component of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. But for many, getting a good night’s rest remains an elusive dream. From difficulty falling asleep to waking up through the night, poor sleep can leave us feeling tired, irritable, and unproductive. So how do you go about giving yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep?
Friday 18th March marks this year’s World Sleep Day – a time for all of us to prioritise better sleep.
As a qualified nutritionist, I'm passionate about helping people improve their sleep through diet and lifestyle choices. And with World Sleep Day upon us, there's no better time to share some tips to help you doze off quicker and easier.
Choose sleep-promoting foods
Certain foods can support relaxation and sleep by providing nutrients that promote the production of sleep hormones, such as melatonin and serotonin. For example, foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, can help improve sleep quality. Examples of tryptophan-rich foods include turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, and soy. Other foods that may aid sleep include tart cherries, kiwi fruit, bananas, and whole grains.
Keep it dark
A good night's sleep requires the conversion of serotonin into melatonin, a hormone that induces and maintains sleep, which is synthesised in the pineal gland triggered by darkness. However, as we move into brighter mornings and lighter evenings away from winter, this process can be delayed, disrupting our sleep patterns. Using blackout blinds or curtains, or a sleep mask can help you switch off better.
Avoid heavy meals and spicy foods at night
Eating a large, heavy meal close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and increase the risk of acid reflux and other digestive problems. Spicy foods can also stimulate the production of stomach acid, leading to heartburn and discomfort. Instead, try to have your main meal at least two hours before bed, and opt for lighter, easier-to-digest foods, such as soup, salad, or a small snack.
Limit alcohol consumption
While alcohol can initially make you feel drowsy and relaxed, it can disrupt the natural sleep cycle and cause fragmented, poor-quality sleep later in the night. Alcohol also interferes with the production of sleep hormones and can worsen snoring and sleep apnoea. If you drink alcohol, try to do so in moderation, and avoid drinking close to bedtime.
Stay hydrated (but don't drink too much before bed)
Dehydration can contribute to sleep problems, such as headaches, cramps, and dry mouth. However, drinking too much water or other fluids before bed can lead to frequent trips to the bathroom, disrupting your sleep. As a general rule, aim to drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated, but taper off your intake in the evening.
Keep Magnesium and Ashwagandha by your bedside
Two nutrients that are considered to be particularly helpful for sleep are magnesium and Ashwagandha.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in the body's relaxation response. It can help calm the nervous system, regulate the heart rhythm, and promote muscle relaxation, all of which can contribute to better sleep.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to promote relaxation and reduce stress. It's believed to work by regulating the body's stress response and promoting the production of calming neurotransmitters, such as GABA. Interestingly, Ashwagandha has also been shown in studies to improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety in people with insomnia.
No Complaints At All
Establish a bedtime routine and environment
Creating a relaxing bedtime routine and environment can signal your body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Some tips for promoting relaxation include taking a warm bath or shower, practising meditation or deep breathing, reading a book, or listening to calming music. It's also important to create a dark, quiet, and cool sleeping environment that is conducive to restful sleep. Investing in a comfortable mattress, pillows, and bedding can also help improve your sleep quality.
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.