Given that leading a hectic lifestyle is almost on trend at the moment, you’d think that the majority of us are so exhausted all the time we’d be falling into a deep sleep at the first opportunity. Although in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth.
What’s actually happening is that our hectic lifestyles are playing havoc with our hormones and wiring our brains so that when it’s time to sleep we either spend half the night tossing and turning or we wake up exhausted because our sleep quality has been heavily compromised.
Sleep is absolutely essential to our health, and research has emerged that poor sleep habits may contribute to an increased risk of weight gain, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure and mental health problems. ,
However, it’s not all bad news and there are definitely strategies you can adopt to help you sleep better.
CUT THE CAFFEINE AFTER 2PM
Caffeine is often drunk in order to keep us awake and the second most common time to consume a cup (after the morning of course) is around 4pm when we need an extra push to help get us through the day. However, coffee has a half life of 6 hours which means that half the caffeine will still be in your blood by 10pm. Half the caffeine is still working to delay the onset of serotonin, increase cortisol and reduce the absorption of adenosine (a compound which facilitates sleep). Consequently your last cup should be no later than 2pm in order to help optimise sleep. Bear in mind that for those particularly caffeine sensitive tea may also impact your sleep.
PACK IN THE FIBRE
You’re probably aware by now that fibre is essential in the promotion of a healthy gut. Gut health is beginning to pop up everywhere and sleep is no different. A large proportion of melatonin is released in the gut. A healthy gut will help to absorb the melatonin and consequently help to improve the quality of your sleep. Foods rich in fibre include fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses.
INCORPORATE HIGH QUALITY PROTEIN INTO YOUR DINNER
Tryptophan is an amino acid which is required to help synthesise both serotonin and melatonin (key hormones which promote sleep). Foods rich in tryptohpan include: oats, dates, yoghurt, chickpeas, buckwheat, fish, eggs and seeds to name a few.
BUMP UP THE B’S
B-vitamins play a role in melatonin and serotonin production. B12 (mainly found in animal sources) is important in the secretion of melatonin. Additionally, B6 is required to convert tryptophan into serotonin. You may be cautious to consume your protein in the evening but without pyridoxine (aka B6) this tryptophan cannot be fully utilised. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include: fish, chicken, whole grains, eggs and milk.
SWEET LIKE CHERRY
Tart cherry juice may appear to be a very random suggestion! Research has suggested that tart cherry juice increased sleep time and quality as it reduced inflammation and increased the availability of tryptophan. However, further research is required to be able to fully determine the role of tart cherry juice on sleep.
Sleep can also be affected by a whole host of other factors and so it’s important to note that these tips alone won’t necessarily cure your sleep issues, although they’re a good place to start.
Ribeiro, J. A., & Sebastiao, A. M. (2010). Caffeine and adenosine. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20(s1), S3-S15.
“Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.” Sleep 38, no. 6 (2015): 843-844.
Losso, J. N., Finley, J. W., Karki, N., Liu, A. G., Prudente, A., Tipton, R., … & Greenway, F. L. (2018). Pilot study of the tart cherry juice for the treatment of insomnia and investigation of mechanisms. American journal of therapeutics.
Liu, A., Tipton, R., Pan, W., Finley, J., Prudente, A., Karki, N., … & Greenway, F. (2014). Tart cherry juice increases sleep time in older adults with insomnia (830.9). The FASEB Journal, 28(1 Supplement), 830-9.
Peuhkuri, K., Sihvola, N., & Korpela, R. (2012). Diet promotes sleep duration and quality. Nutrition research, 32(5), 309-319.