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What to eat (and what to avoid) for the best quality sleep.

If you are struggling with the quality and consistency of your sleep, one thing to consider is what you are consuming. Nutrition can have a significant impact on our sleep – with certain foods and drinks aiding or disrupting its quality. So, what should you be eating to promote good quality sleep and what should you be avoiding? Read on to discover sleep-promoting nutrients and some of the foods and substances that can negatively influence the quality of your sleep.

Vitamin D

Research suggests there is a correlation between low vitamin D levels and regular sleep disturbances. Also, it has been proven that low vitamin D levels can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and hinder you performing at your best. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, which is thankfully something that is plentiful here in Australia. Ensuring you have 5-10 minutes of sunlight directly on your skin each day is usually enough to maintain your vitamin D levels. Of course, it is important to be conscious about your sun exposure to protect your skin from skin cancers and premature ageing. It is best to get sun on your skin early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the UV rating is below recommended sun protection levels.

Some foods do contain small amounts of vitamin D. These include oily fish (such as herring or sardines), organic butter, cod-liver oil and some mushrooms.

Vitamin B6

This nutrient is vital for relaxing your nervous system and regulating your body’s stress response. To achieve deep sleep, your nervous system will need to be calm and relaxed. Waking repeatedly through the night or waking in the morning not feeling refreshed are both signs that your nervous system may be too wired to allow you to sleep deeply.

The best sources of vitamin B6 include bananas, liver, salmon and walnuts.

Selenium

There is research to suggest that selenium could impact on sleep quality. Researchers have linked deficiencies in selenium with sleep abnormalities.

The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts although small amounts are also found in eggs, some seafood and meat.

Vitamin C

Low levels of vitamin C in the blood can lead to more sleep issues and a tendency to wake more regularly through the night. Our body does not store vitamin C, so it is important to consume it daily to ensure we are obtaining enough for optimum health – particularly because it is used for so many different functions in the body.

The best food sources of vitamin C includes berries, citrus fruits, kale, broccoli, parsley and kiwifruit.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is the precursor of several important hormones, including serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep hormone that assists in the regulation of your circadian rhythms and falling sleep.

You will find tryptophan in its highest amounts in turkey and it is also found in chicken, eggs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, bananas and sweet potato.

Omega 3s

An essential fatty acid, omega 3s have been shown to promote deep, restorative sleep. Studies reveal that supplementing children and adults with omega-3s increases the duration and quality of sleep.

The best food sources include oily fish, some algae, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.

Calcium

According to some research, disturbances in REM sleep (when you are most likely to dream) may be due to a calcium deficiency. As REM sleep is a lighter part of your sleep cycle, disturbances here may result in more regular waking through the night.

The best sources of calcium include dairy products, canned sardines and salmon (with edible bones), green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, tahini and figs.  

Along with not eating too late in the evening, substances to avoid for the best quality sleep include:

Caffeine

Caffeine stays in the system for longer than you might think. While everyone has a different capacity to handle caffeine, if you are not sleeping restoratively and consuming more than one or two cups of coffee, you may like to consider your caffeine intake. It can also help to keep coffee intake to before midday.

Alcohol

Alcohol tends to assist with the onset of sleep, however, it has been shown to interrupt the body’s ability to achieve a deep and restorative sleep. According to The Sleep Foundation, high amounts of alcohol (more than 2 drinks for men and more than 1 drink for women) can decrease sleep quality by 39.2%. If sleep is a challenge for you, consider your alcohol intake and improve your notice whether on days or nights you consume it impacts on your sleep.

Any food that doesn’t agree with you

Digestive discomfort can take a toll on your sleep. Try to avoid foods that you know your body does not digest easily if sleep is a challenge for you.  

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