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Various lifestyle factors can affect the ease with which we are able to nod off. Although it is generally considered a bad idea to consume food and drink right before bed, there are some things that can actually encourage relaxation and induce sleep. It is important to identify the difference between what Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., CEO of the National Sleep Foundation categorizes as ‘sleep promoters’ and ‘sleep stealers’.
Much debate has gone into deciding the best pre-bedtime tipple. As a general rule of thumb, opting for something warm is thought to help us to wind down. And there are plenty of options out there through which you could drink your way to a good nights sleep:
- Chamomile tea – of all the teas, chamomile runs supreme when it comes to sleep inducing qualities. This is because chamomile is an effective stress reliever, and being stress-free is of course vital when it comes to drifting off. For extra benefits chamomile combined with lavender has been shown to be highly successful in relieving experiences of anxiety and insomnia.
- Valerian tea – valerian is a herb that researchers have found to contain sedative effective. Multiple studies have shown consuming the herb before sleep time, can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and improve the quality of rest experienced.
- Warm milk – a classic home comfort, this may be perceived by many to be simply an old-wives tale. But in fact, there is some science behind the tradition of warm milk before bed (unfortunately science doesn’t justify the accompanying cookie!). Lack of calcium has been linked with experiencing sleep disorders, and also random experiences of sleepwalking. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan which is thought to be what gives milk a drowsy quality. Research has shown that this amino acid can help to regulate serotonin and melatonin production, which are key hormones in the sleep-wake cycle.
Best Evening Meals
Even if you choose to consume your final meal hours before hitting the hay, what you choose to eat will still significantly affect your sleep. Though carbs before bed are often demonized in the role of weight gain, they are very much effective in inducing sleep, provided you don’t overindulge. Tryptophan, the amino acid found in milk, is made more available to the brain by carbohydrates. This explains why carbohydrates can make you feel more sleepy. Healthy carbohydrate options include jasmine rice and sweet potato.
Often the gap between your final meal of the day, and heading to bed can leave us feeling a little empty stomached. Having a snack isn’t necessarily detrimental to your sleep, in fact opting for the correct snack, could help you nod off.
- Cherries – cherries contain melatonin, the chemical responsible for encouraging sleep. Indeed, a small study showed that drinking tart cherry juice helped to improve experiences of insomnia.
- Banannas – As well as being a carb, bananas contain the natural muscle relaxants magnesium and potassium to help you wind down. Potassium has also been shown to keep nocturnal cramps at bay.
- Brazil Nuts – research has shown that having brazil nuts late at night can significantly improve sleep quality. Like bananas, brazil nuts contain potassium, which has a positive effect on sleep patterns.
And what to avoid:
Of course there are many foods and drinks which could disrupt your quality of sleep. Being aware of these is vital in order to allow you to get the most from your shut eye. Be sure to avoid:
- Spicy Food
- High Fat Foods