Food to help a good night’s sleep

We all know how important it is to have a good night’s sleep, to ensure we feel well and have a productive day. Evidence shows that a lack of sleep has a negative effect on our body’s ability to regulate our appetite, meaning we overeat and often crave sugary foods to provide the energy that sleep should have restored.

So, how can our diet help us to sleep well?

  • Have a warm milky drink before bed. It's something your Grandmother will have told you to do as a child, but there is scientific evidence to support this - milk is shown to help our muscles relax and thereby helps the body relax and get ready to sleep!
  • Have a couple of Brazil nuts. These are high in the nutrient Selenium, if we don’t have enough of this in our diet we can struggle to get to sleep. Three Brazil nuts is enough.
  • Have carbohydrates with your evening meal. Evidence suggests that the serotonin released in the brain after consuming carbohydrates helps to calm the body.
  • Avoid sugary foods which cause spikes in our blood sugar throughout the day and make us feel worse rather than better. Sugar contains no nutrients and nothing our body needs.
  • Avoid caffeine after lunchtime. As a stimulant it might be nice to enjoy a morning cuppa or coffee, however avoid it after lunch and switch to water to hydrate. Even decaf varieties contain some caffeine (often around 12mg per mug) and can disrupt sleep in some people. Remember cans of coke, energy drinks and chocolate also contain caffeine!
  • Reduce your alcohol intake. Although it may help you feel sleepy, the effects are short lived and prevent the body from falling into a deeper sleep, meaning you will feel tired in the morning. It also provides empty calories and sugar and so is best limited to one small glass!
  • Finally, try and eat a healthy balanced diet overall. This will help you maintain a healthy weight; excess weight in itself can cause sleep problems. To get further advice seek support from a Registered Nutritionist.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Leeds LS20 & LS18
Written by Dr Lisa Gatenby, RNutr PhD MMedSci BSc (hons) FHEA
Leeds LS20 & LS18

I am a registered nutritionist with a PhD in nutrition and a masters of medical science in human nutrition. I love food and believe that we can all enjoy a diet which can promote health and optimise our nutritional intakes. I am also a qualified Chef and use these skills to help people on their healthy eating journey.

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