How to get a good night's sleep

  • By
    Kerry Torrens - Nutritional therapist

Do you struggle to get a good night's rest? Kerry Torrens explains how a few diet changes can make all the difference...

How to get a good night's sleep

Insomnia affects about a third of the UK population and, for a male client of mine in his late 40s, it was leaving him drained and unable to manage his business, adding to his already high stress levels.

After having a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, my client drank coffee throughout the day, had a sandwich for lunch and ate his main meal in the evening. He often caught up with paperwork or emails before going to bed.
 

My advice to this client was...

  • Zingy chicken stir-fry Swap sugary cereal for a wholegrain alternative topped with milk and a sliced banana.
  • Choose protein foods that are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan. This helps boost the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Chicken and turkey, milk and dairy, nuts and seeds are all good choices.
  • Combine these with rice, pasta or potatoes to help the body get the most benefits from tryptophan. Try a chicken and noodle stir-fry or similar. Drink warm milk with a cracker or oatcake before bed.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake gradually. Try decaffeinated coffee or caffeine-free drinks like red bush tea.
  • Build relaxation and exercise into the day to help manage stress.
  • Avoid using a computer late in the evening as the light from the screen can have a stimulatory effect.
     

The result?

After a month, my client had made several diet and lifestyle changes, and his sleep quality had improved. However, his stress levels remained high, so I suggested that he visit his GP for this.
 

Recipes suggestions...

Dippy eggs with Marmite soldiers Malted walnut seed loaf
Dippy eggs with Marmite soldiers
Fruit & nut granola
Zingy chicken stir-fry
Spicy turkey & pepper bake
All-in-one chicken, squash & new potato casserole
Thai turkey stir-fry
 


Do you have trouble sleeping or have you beaten insomnia by making changes to your diet? Let us know below.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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extremadura's picture

Apart from cutting out coffee after 11 a.m., I found that cutting out protein at night helps beat insomnia. So, supper tends to be vegetable soup, fruit or salad, plus milk. Alcohol is also a great way to get to sleep -but has me waking up again 3 or 4 hours later. So limiting alcohol intake also helps.

nicolacappin's picture

I have struggled with insomnia for years. It takes me a while to get to sleep and I wake up lots. I saw a nutritionist who thought it could actually be hunger stopping me sleeping through. I think she was right. At her suggestion I now have a glass of milk/yoghurt/small banana/couple of ryvita just before bed and I also cut out the afternoon caffeine. Helped for me.

last edited: 11:09, 4th Jul, 2013

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