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Eating carbohydrates stimulates your body to produce insulin, which will clear many of the amino acids which compete with tryptophan from your bloodstream. Tryptophan acts as a sleep inducer, and having more of it reach your brain is shown to promote faster and deeper sleep.
Cherries have been touted as a wonder food for insomniacs; and there’s very solid research backing that up. A team of scientists at Louisiana State University found that insomniacs who drank a glass of unsweetened cherry juice twice a day for two weeks got an average of 84 minutes more sleep per night.
Cherries are rich in two natural sleep inducing chemicals; hormone melatonin (a natural part of your body’s day/night cycle) and amino acid tryptophan.
Many cold water fish, as well as algae and even seaweed, contain naturally high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 has long been linked to brain health, and is recommended by many dementia support groups for that purpose. New research suggests that omega 3 might also have beneficial short term effects, and a team from the University of Oxford found children taking supplements went to sleep faster and had fewer overall disturbances.
Aside from cherries, many other fruits contain high levels of melatonin, which is naturally produced in your body in dark periods. Pineapples, bananas and oranges; as well as walnuts and almonds. One recent study found that eating pineapple can more than double your levels of melatonin
Herbal Teas have long been marketed as a stress relieving, relaxing drink and many swear by them as a bedtime remedy. Chamomile and Valerian teas are particularly noted for their sleep inducing properties, and valerian in particular has been shown to act as a natural sedative. There is little firm medical evidence on the effectiveness of these teas, aside from noting that valerian is a sedative, and it may well be that some of the effect is psychological. Nonetheless, many find them, at the very least, relaxing and stress reducing; which will certainly help you drop off!
And 3 to avoid
Although many find that a few glasses of wine help them drop off in the evening, alcohol will often reduce both the quality and quantity of your sleep. Alcohol is a biphasic drug, meaning at first it has some stimulant effects, before later acting more like a depressant. This is why many people will hit a point of feeling absolutely knackered after a night out.
Going to sleep may become easier however, alcohol interferes with your brain’s ability to get critical REM sleep, which helps with memory and creative thinking. What’s more some drinks, like red wine, contain a chemical named tyramine which, when metabolised, acts as a brain stimulant; a recipe for disturbed sleep and bad dreams!
It might go without saying, but many people don’t realise that their late night coffee will make it more difficult to sleep. What many people don’t realise is that caffeine is very slow to break down in your body; 25% of the caffeine you consume will still be in your body 10 hours later. Long after you stop feeling energised by a coffee you’ll still find it more difficult to go to sleep; so try and cut out cups later in the day.
Having a spicy meal soon before bedtime is like giving your stomach a workout it really doesn’t need. Even if you can eat the hottest curries without discomfort, your stomach will still be in overdrive trying to break down capsaicin; the main active ingredient of chillies, and lead to longer periods of wakefulness before you drop off.