Do you struggle to get a good night's rest? Kerry Torrens explains how a few diet changes can make all the difference...
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...
- 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. Aim to eat your main meal earlier in the evening – the act of eating pushes up the body’s core temperature and this can disrupt sleep so eat your evening meal at least four hours before retiring for the day. Last thing, a glass of warm milk with a cracker or oatcake can be useful.
- Reduce your caffeine intake gradually. Try decaffeinated coffee or caffeine-free drinks like red bush tea. Have your last caffeine-containing drink no later than midday – this is because the time taken for the body to eliminate the caffeine you consume is roughly five-six hours.
- 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.
- Take a warm bath an hour or two before bedtime – studies suggest this may improve sleep quality.
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.
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.
This article was updated on 23 September 2019 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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