Top 5 healthy foods to help you get a good night's sleep
In my last blog, I looked at the recent research about eating rice to help you sleep. As I said in that post, I think it is wiser to look at the other foods that could help you sleep that are healthier and have lots of other benefits in terms of the nutrients they contain.
The most impressive research has been done on sour cherries and kiwi fruits, so it is maybe wise to try these first, but if you would like to try something else or hate the taste of either, there are other options that just haven’t had the official backing of the others.
The main thing to note is that sleep problems have been linked to oxidative stress in the body. The science on this is in its early stages, but this could be why fruits, with their high levels of antioxidants, seem to help with insomnia.
In fact, researchers wanting to investigate this did a trial involving kiwi fruit, but they probably chose that fruit as kiwi growers offered to fund the research. So a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables that contain antioxidants, healthy carbs and the sleep inducing minerals such as magnesium is not only good for you, as we all know already, but could easily help you sleep.
Here are the best night time snacks for getting a good night’s sleep (and any feedback gratefully received):
Although these foods could help you sleep better, I wouldn’t advise you to have a big helping of them just before you go to sleep! Eating right before bedtime should be avoided as it forces your body to be digesting when you should be sleeping. Make sure you eat your evening snacks at least 2 hours (or preferably more) before your bedtime.
1. Sour cherry juice
In a double blind, placebo controlled study, participants found increases in sleep quality and time spent asleep when drinking a glass of sour cherry juice twice a day.
The researchers noticed increased urinary output of melatonin, the hormone that helps induce sleepiness, in those drinking the cherry juice, and so think that the high amount of melatonin in sour cherries, in addition to the anti-inflammatory benefits of the red pigment, are how they affect sleep. However, it is wise to note that the sample size of the trial was small and the effects on sleep modest. So although it is worth a try, it is not a magic cure.
Sweet cherries contain less melatonin than the sour ones, but some say they could help sleep if you eat about 100 before bed which I think would cause indigestion and a very disturbed night! So the juice is better, and available in health food stores.
2. Kiwi Fruit
In another study, with a fairly large number of participants, the volunteers ate two kiwi fruit one hour before bed for four weeks and the effects showed significant increases in sleep duration, sleep quality and time spent getting to sleep.
Researchers have suggested that this is due to the high amount of serotonin in kiwis, although other scientists have pointed out that it is very hard to absorb serotonin from food, as it does not easily cross the blood brain barrier, and so these scientists would say that the antioxidant properties of the kiwi are more likely to be the reason they helped with sleep.
Either way, if you suffer a lot from insomnia, this would seem an easy experiment to try and you will be getting lots of vitamin C! For the full study on kiwi fruit follow this link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21669584
3. Almonds and Goji berries
Both of these actually contain more melatonin per serving than sour cherries (a serving equalling about a handful of each).
Neither have been researched for sleep but both contain, in addition to the melatonin, many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and so a nighttime snack of either or both could well be a good choice.
Adding some pumpkin seeds to the mix could be even better, as these seeds contain Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps with sleep.
This humble fruit has good amounts of Typtophan, potassium, magnesium and healthy carbs so would make an ideal snack for anyone suffering with sleeplessness. Try eating them with oatcakes or blended with milk or nut milk for extra amounts of healthy carbs and nutrients.
Well, this is a little tenuous – but wild lettuce, a non edible variety, does contain significant amounts of a substance called lactucarium, which is a natural opiate. This is why extract of wild lettuce is sometimes found in herbal sleeping tablets.
Commercial varieties are unlikely to contain as much (who really wants to eat a whole lettuce before bed?), but lettuce soup and lettuce sandwiches are old fashioned remedies for insomnia.
A modern version could be to juice some lettuce before bed or create a lettuce based smoothie (mixed with other fruits and vegetables that could be much nicer than it sounds!)