Getting a good night’s sleep is fundamental to maintaining good health. Not only essential for making us feel rested and refreshed, sleep improves neurological health and lowers the risk of heart disease.
For most of us, catching 40 winks is as easy as climbing into bed and drifting away but for an estimated 30% of adults in the UK suffering from Insomnia, getting the recommended 8 hours a night is not so straightforward.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder which affects sufferers’ ability to fall asleep or stay asleep for long enough.
As a result, insomniacs typically experience feelings of lethargy, fatigue, irritability and poor concentration and can find themselves stuck in a cycle of sleepless nights and exhausted days.
What causes Insomnia?
Bouts of insomnia can occur for a variety of reasons ranging from depression to a poor sleeping environment. Drugs and alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns and stress is one of the most common causes of sleepless nights.
Another influential element which has a big impact on sleep is diet. Whilst we all know that stimulants such as caffeine can lead to problems switching off, we tend to be less aware about the impact of the other ingredients we eat and drink.
The food you choose can affect how you snooze
• Protein-rich and fatty foods such as red meat and cheese make bad midnight snacks as the body works harder to break them down.
• Celery, cranberry and aubergine act as diuretics, waking you up over and over again for bathroom visits through the night.
• Foods such as pork, tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate and wine are rich in an amino acid called tyramine, which the body converts to a brain stimulant called noradrenaline.
• Foods and drinks to aid sleep can include herbal teas such as camomile which provide a mild sedative effect to help calm and soothe.
• Foods rich in the amino acid, Tryptophan, such as bananas, yoghurt, milk and oats all help promote serotonin, essential for a good night’s sleep.
• Heart healthy fats such as peanut butter also improve serotonin levels.
• Rich in melatonin, studies have shown cherry juice can help improve insomnia symptoms.
Tips for encouraging good sleep
Turn your bed into a sanctuary
To improve the quality of your sleep, it’s vital to get yourself into a relaxing bedtime routine. Fresh clean sheets, a spritz of lavender on your pillow and a dark room all help encourage you to wind down. Being too hot or cold can also disrupt your sleep so take a tip from Goldilocks and make sure your bed is juuuust right!
Switch off to ‘switch off’
Scientists report that the artificial glow from phone and laptop screens can suppress the production of melatonin, the major hormone responsible for controlling sleep and wake cycles. Coupled with the irresistible distraction of messages pinging through, you have a recipe for a restless night.
Watch what you eat
Overloading your digestive system with heavy meals late at night is a sure-fire route to a night of tossing and turning. If you feel the need to have a bedtime snack, choose wisely and eat right to sleep tight.