Article by Fab after Fifty
Tired of being tired? Don’t remember when was the last time you had your eight hour beauty sleep? Don’t worry, you are not alone: 1 in 5 Brits admit that they don’t get enough sleep every single day!*
We asked our Nutritionists to tell us what and when to eat to sleep well and wake up fresh.
Eat yourself to sleep
Bird with superpowers
Make sure that you have enough protein during the day. ‘High-protein foods are meats, fish, beans and lentils, seeds and nuts (choose unsalted and raw rather than roasted). Protein foods provide the amino acid tryptophan, which converts to the hormones serotonin and melatonin, which is needed for good sleep. Avoid too much high-protein food in the last few hours before bed however, as they can be hard to digest – especially red meat and nuts.’ explains Shona Wilkinson, Head Nutritionist at www.nutricentre.com.
Turkey is often said to be a sleep-promoter, as it contains good levels of tryptophan, the amino acid that converts into serotonin and then melatonin in our body. ‘However, tryptophan is not the only constituent that makes turkey worth mentioning: it is also a good source of zinc and vitamin B6 – ‘co-factors’ that help the body to produce melatonin from tryptophan. Have your turkey earlier in the day, though, as a large serving of meat or other high-protein food late in the evening may stop you falling asleep.’ adds Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of The Natural Health Bible for Women.
‘Include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Think: buckwheat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and seafood, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale as well as dried fruits. Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ and is needed to relax our muscles. It is also vital for the function of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter that your brain requires to switch off, You can also try taking a supplement, such as Synergistic Magnesium by Quest Vitamins (www.revital.co.uk, £6.25)’ says Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist.
Oysters: not just an aphrodisiac
‘Include zinc-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, oysters and other seafood, whole grains and nuts, especially pecans and brazil nuts. Zinc is needed for conversion of tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin.’ suggests Shona. Is seafood not your thing? ‘Take Nature’s Plus Zinc Lozenges once a day to improve your sleep quality.’ adds Barns.
No treats before the bedtime!
Avoid large meals and too much hard-to-digest food for three to four hours before going to bed. Stay away from red meat, cheese and fried foods.
‘Stimulants such as tea and coffee should be avoided too. Caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours so if you do have sleep problems, avoid tea or coffee from about 12 noon onwards. Try calming chamomile tea instead
Too much alcohol can disrupt sleep: although it may make us fall asleep quickly, sleep is poor quality and we can wake up after a few hours and be unable to get to sleep again. Every person will have different tolerance levels, but I would advise sticking to no more than one glass of wine or beer to encourage optimal sleep.’ explains Wilkinson.
Good carbs for good night’s sleep
Slow-releasing carbohydrates help to keep the levels of sugar (glucose) in your blood stable, and so provide your body with sustained energy. You may not think you need much energy while you’re asleep, but your brain and body still need glucose to keep working. ‘If levels fall too low, this can cause the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which can wake you up. To avoid this, make sure you have some slow-releasing carbohydrates in the evening: a serving of brown rice or a slice of rye bread with your evening meal or couple of oatcakes with a bit of hummous as a pre-bed snack.’ suggests Dr Glenville.
*Survey commissioned by NutriCentre, October 2015