Health

Thursday 21 August 2014

Diet is key to a good night's sleep

IF YOUR ambition for 2013 is to ensure you get a good night's sleep it is worth looking at your diet.

Deficiencies in several nutrients can lead to sleep problems including calcium, magnesium and B vitamins so ensuring a varied and healthy diet is key to a restful night.

Eat lots of fruit – cherries and kiwis may help you sleep. Vegetables, whole grains, and lower-fat protein sources – such as fish, chicken, lean meat, eggs or soya – which contain the amino acid tryptophan, as well as B vitamins, minerals and unrefined carbohydrates also help.

One of the most oft-quoted tips is to avoid caffeine and alcohol near bedtime. It may be tempting to think drinking alcohol can help by relaxing the mind and body but it can actually trigger sleep problems, including nightmares.

Foods that impact on the availability of tryptophan, as well as the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin (sleep hormones), may be helpful in promoting good sleep. Some sufferers report improvements from eating foods with carbohydrate and protein (biscuits and milk, for example) before bedtime.

Following a Mediterranean-style diet – one that emphasises fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and olive oil, as opposed to butter and seafood – has also been suggested to support good sleeping habits.

Several herbal remedies, such as valerian, kava and camomile, also claim to help prevent nightmares by acting as sedatives. But nightmare sufferers need to be careful when using some of these remedies. A study of valerian and kava found they reduced stress in insomnia sufferers, but a side-effect was vivid dreams, so it could worsen your problem.

Regular exercise and meditation during the day or before bed also help.

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