How to get a good night's sleep

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.

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Comments, questions and tips

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Comments (4)

bigdave5's picture

I have found it very hard to sleep right for over 3 years and just can not sleep my days start at 3pm wake up go back to bed at 11.30 but do not get to sleep under till 6am can any one help or have a good ides

Jobee6729's picture

I can't really sleep even im so tired in whole day work. Thanks for this i hope i will have a good nights sleep.

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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

Questions (2)

flexxy's picture

My husband is diabetic and he has problem sleeping. Kindly suggest what he can do to overcome his lack of sleep.

Kerry Torrens's picture

Hi there, thanks for your question.

A night time snack such as a glass of milk and an oat cake may help stabilise blood sugar levels through the night. Ensure your husband gets some form of exercise during the day and avoid TV and computer screens in the evening as the light they emit is thought to disrupt our natural circadian rhythm.

Tips (1)

jeco's picture

My tip is not about diet, which is obviously important, but reducing wi-fi made a huge difference to my quality of sleep. You may not have realised it affects you as it can creep up gradually, but it is easy to check. Simply switch off all wi-fi and unnecessary electrical appliances before going to bed - computer connections, cordless phones, mobiles, playstations, whole house TV and radio systems - also baby monitors and pendant alarms for the elderly if not needed. Try it for a week to see if you get to sleep sooner, the quality of any sleep improves, or you merely feel more refreshed on waking. Sleep disturbance is common, but not the only affect - it can cause a whole host of other symptoms such as headaches. If it improves your sleep, consider refusing a Smart meter when they come in.

last edited: 14:29, 11th Jul, 2013