Eat For: Nourishing Sleep
When it comes to sleep, most of us know the dos and don’ts of good sleep hygiene (if you need a refresh read this). But how much does what we eat, and drink impact the quality and quantity of our sleep?
Sleep disturbance is a common theme for many individuals, be it difficultly falling asleep, or the quality of the sleep interrupted by repeat waking. The ripple effect of poor sleep impacts all areas of life – energy, work productivity, emotional stability, relational capacity, food choices and more. Not to mention the long-term negative health impacts that are associated with poor sleep, notably, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. For sleep to nourish the body and support optimal health it must be sufficient in both quality and quantity.
There are essential hormones your body needs in order to support your nervous system in inducing and maintaining quality sleep, the primary one being melatonin. Thankfully, melatonin, its precursors, and other vitamins and minerals that contribute to nourishing sleep, can be found in our everyday foods and drinks and benefit when consumed 2-3 hours before bed.
- Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are high in protein and fat and are packed full of nourishing vitamins and mineral. They support sleep due to their melatonin and magnesium content. Melatonin instructs your body to prepare for sleep. Magnesium helps regulate melatonin as well as activating the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for rest and relaxation. A small handful is a sufficient serving size to provide satiety and support sleep.
- Turkey and chicken are delicious sources of protein and provide similar vitamin and mineral content to each other. The consumption of these moderate protein sources has been shown to support sleep quality, including less frequent waking due to the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan encourages sleep as it increases the production of serotonin, the precursor melatonin.
- Kiwifruits are an outstanding source of fibre, potassium and vitamin C, cleansing the body and supporting the immune system. A trial involving the consumption of 2 kiwifruits, 1 hour before bed found that the individuals’ total sleep time and sleep efficiency increased. Additionally, the delayed onset of sleep and waking after onset was significantly reduced in comparison to the individuals’ baseline sleep. It is hypothesised that the high content of antioxidants and serotonin contribute to these observed sleep benefits.
- Tart Cherry Juice: A 250ml serve of tart cherry juice in the morning and evening has demonstrated to improve sleep quality, with significant reduction in insomnia severity due to its high melatonin concentration. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions of tart cherries contribute to these sleep benefits by reducing oxidative stress damage.
- Fatty Fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D which have demonstrated to improve production, synthesis and regulation of serotonin. Therefore, a serving of fatty fish in the evening may support better sleep.
- Oats are high in carbohydrates and fibre and are rich melatonin, our primary sleep hormone. When consumed before bed they have been shown to induce drowsiness and help sleep onset. However, even when consumed in the morning they support the body’s natural production of melatonin and contain other nervous system supporting vitamins and minerals.
- Banana peels contain tryptophan, and the fruit is a good source of magnesium and potassium, both of which are supportive to the nervous system in sleep. If you’re wondering how to eat a banana peel check out the recipe below.
Banana Peel Loaf
(Adapted from Simpilicious Flow by Sarah Wilson)
4 organic banana peels, ends removed
1 tsp vanilla powder/extract
80g butter, softened plus extra for greasing
½ cup sweetener of choice – rice malt, honey, maple syrup
4 organic eggs
2 ½ cups oat flour (blend rolled oats into a fine flour prior)
½ cup shredded coconut
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 180’C, grease loaf tin with softened butter.
Blend banana peels with ½ cup of water in high powered blender until a thick puree.
Add eggs, vanilla, butter, sweetener and process until creamy.
Add oat flour, coconut, baking powder and cinnamon and blend until batter forms.
Stir through walnuts and transfer to prepared tin.
Bake for 45-50 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in tin for 5-10mins and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Enjoy toasted with butter alongside or after dinner.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or freeze in portions for up to 3 months.
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