Sleep

Can’t sleep? These 20 healthy foods could be the cure

Has Covid wrecked your sleep These 20 healthy foods could be the cure MAIN

If stress from Covid has left you anxious or you can’t sleep, these 20 healthy foods can help to make bedtime the best time. Lucy Gornall reports 

Covid-19 has been the word on everyone’s lips for two years now, and although experts suggest we’re nearing the end of this pandemic, the aftermath is likely to continue for a while…

Whether or not you were struck down with Covid yourself, the past 24 months have been a whirlwind of anxiety, stress and for many, sleepless nights.

working from home has led to a culture of working all hours and never ‘shutting off’

Dubbed Covid-somnia, the worries we’ve all faced – from financial and health through to concerns about friends, family and job security, have left many of us lacking in shut-eye.

Plus, working from home has led to a culture of working all hours and never ‘shutting off’, further messing up our circadian rhythm, the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.

The lowdown on sleep

For adults, the recommended number of sleep hours per night is eight, however, studies done by The Sleep Council reveal that 33 per cent of us get just five to six hours a night while seven per cent get less than five hours.

But why do we need sleep? Healthspan Nutritionist Rob Hobson says that, put simply, sleep gives our body the opportunity ‘to repair any damage caused by general wear and tear from the day’.

‘This includes the replenishment of protein and release of growth hormone. Sleep is also a time when the brain processes thoughts and memories from the day’.

woman in bed covidsomnia
For adults, the recommended number of sleep hours per night is eight

Eat yourself to sleep…

Although you won’t find a food that will knock you right into a sweet, sweet slumber, there are some dietary additions and tweaks that can be made.

‘Certain foods and the nutrients they contain may influence our sleep as will the timing and eating behaviours you choose to adopt,’ explains Rob.

Ready to upgrade your diet? Speaking of the nutrients to load up on, Rob says that tryptophan is vital.

‘This is an essential acid, used to make melatonin in the brain, which is the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Team tryptophan with a carbohydrate such as rice or pasta to help with its uptake’.

Eat

  • seeds,
  • nuts,
  • tofu,
  • poultry,
  • oily fish,
  • oats,
  • lentils,
  • beans,
  • eggs.

Magnesium, also dubbed as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’, aids relaxation in the body, to help us switch off. It also helps us to stay asleep, beating those middle-of-the-night wake-ups.

‘This mineral binds to receptors in the brain that help to quieten nerve activity and prepare your body for sleep,’ explains Rob, who recommends a pre-bed sleepy hot chocolate using cashew milk, cocoa powder and a little honey.

avocado on toast

Eat

  • Spinach,
  • kale,
  • seeds,
  • beans,
  • pulses,
  • brown rice,
  • avocado,
  • cocoa powder.

A dinner of canned salmon with kale could be your new sleepy dinner. It’s all thanks to calcium, another important nutrient needed for good sleep.

Not only is it required to convert tryptophan to melatonin in the brain, but research has shown that sleep disturbances may actually be related to low levels of calcium.

Eat

  • Dairy foods,
  • dark green leafy vegetables,
  • pulses,
  • dried fruit,
  • canned salmon,
  • tofu.

Dairy free? ‘Choose a milk alternative which is fortified with calcium,’ explains Rob.

Finally, vitamin B6 also helps with melatonin production as it’s required to convert tryptophan to serotonin in the brain.

‘This is then used to make melatonin,’ adds Rob.

‘Vitamin B6 is depleted from the body when we’re under stress so it’s important to keep topped up. If you’re suffering I’d recommend Healthspan’s Super B Complex (suitable for vegans), that contains all eight of the essential vitamins you need’.

salmon and veggies

Eat

  • Oily fish (especially mackerel),
  • meat,
  • bananas,
  • tofu,
  • soya milk,
  • brown rice,
  • oats,
  • sweet potatoes.

Give these foods a miss…

As for the foods to avoid; heavy, rich and spicy foods can keep your digestive system working overtime, which can lead to lack of sleep.

Rob explains that alcohol can ruin sleep too.

‘Alcohol can impair the restorative part of sleep known as REM as well as interfering with the flow of calcium into nerve cells affecting part of the brain that controls sleep’.

woman saying not to more alcohol
Alcohol can impair the restorative part of sleep

Boost your bedtime: extra tips for good sleep

Stick to a sleep schedule

Dr Kat Lederle is a sleep therapist and body clock specialist. She recommends sticking to a rigid sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and following your natural body clock.

‘Make sure your mornings are bright by opening the curtains and going for a walk,’ says Dr Lederle.

‘In the evening, dim your lights in the hours before you go to bed to inform your body clock that night time’s approaching’.

Avoid pressing snooze

Rob Hobson who is also the author of The Art of Sleeping’  adds that getting up when your alarm goes off is important.

‘Snoozing is likely to leave you feeling groggy, especially if you fall back into a deep sleep’.

Plus, be sure to go to bed tired by being active – mentally and physically – throughout the day.

Wind down before bed

If you find next-day worries keep you awake, then Dr Lederle suggests making a to-do list the evening before. This can help avoid any unnecessary stress in the morning.

Try a warm bath to relax the body and mind

As well as this, allow your body time to wind down before bed.

Try a warm bath to relax the body and mind and give it an upgrade with Magnesium Flakes Bath Soaks and pop in a few drops of the blissful Tisserand Sleep Better Oil  – a blend of Jasmine, Sandalwood and Lavender pure essential oils which will help relax the body and mind for deep sleep.

It’s also wise to avoid technology in the 30 minutes before bed. The blue light emitted from screens can interfere massively with our circadian rhythm, in turn stopping us from falling asleep.

woman in relaxing bath to help wind down for sleep and bedtime

Try sleep helping supplements or tinctures

Some supplements and remedies are blended to help aid with sleep whilst others contain single nutrients which have been shown to play a useful role.

Tinctures such as those made with valerian and hops to help support sleep and use Dormeasan Valerian-Hops both 30 minutes before retiring to bed and also once upon waking, during the night, if need be.

This combination of herbs helps make us more relaxed and allows for deeper sleep.

Some supplements and remedies are blended to help aid with sleep

Supplements such as 5-HTP, 5- HTP, 5-Hydroxytryptophan, an amino acid that is found naturally in our bodies, where it is converted into serotonin and melatonin, natural neurotransmitters that influence a variety of functions, including sleep, appetite and mood.

Try Healthspan Night-Time 5HTP, with added B vitamins and magnesium to provide extra support to your nervous system and psychological function.

So, load up your plate with the right foods throughout the day, practise good sleep hygiene, and prepare yourself for a dreamy night ahead.

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