How to sleep: Five simple diet changes to help you get a good night's rest

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Sleep is integral for optimum health – those who lack it are at increased risk of serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It’s also been fund to shorten your life expectancy. Most people need eight hours sleep a night but generally get around seven. Some people even get five or six, and some less than that. The thing around sleep, according to Rob, is tackling all the different areas – behaviour, your environment, and diet.

The first thing Rob says you should consider is your sleep hygiene.

He said: “If you want to get a good night’s sleep then you need to develop a good ritual, and this can involve lots of different factors – how cool your bedroom is, how comfortable your bed is, how fresh your bed linen is, or plenty of other things such as ‘do you exercise to close to bed?’or ‘do you like to take a bath?’

Really look at all these factors and develop your own ritual, personal ritual to you, to help you sleep well.”

There are some easy diet changes you can make, make avoiding stimulants before bed to eating oily fish.

Stimulants before bed

If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, then make sure you stay off it any time after mid-afternoon, says Rob.

He said: “Alcohol’s a bit of a double-edged sword. While it can make you feel sleepy, it can make your sleep very fragmented.

“Having too much alcohol before bed can cause you to wake up throughout the night either dehydrated or wanting to use the bathroom, so it’s important that you keep it to a bare minimum or try not to drink just before you go to bed.”

Sleep hormones

The main sleep hormone is melatonin and this helps control the sleep cycle.

Rob explained: “To make melatonin you need tryptophan from the diet and you can find this in foods like poultry, bananas, nuts and tofu. It’s important to get plenty of this in the diet if you want to get a good night’s sleep as it helps to make that sleep hormone.

“To help with the uptake of that, it’s really useful to have a carbohydrate food in combination. So this could be something like a white bread sandwich with turkey.”

Minerals

A few minerals that are important for sleep are magnesium and calcium, according to Rob.

He said: “Both of these are involved in making melatonin. You find magnesium in green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and you can obviously get calcium in dairy foods. But if you don’t eat dairy foods, you’ll also find them it in dark green vegetables and pulses.

“Make sure you include plenty of these foods in your diet.”

Oily fish

Oily fish is good for all different areas of our health, but it’s also a good source of vitamin B6, which again, is another nutrient used to make melatonin in the body, explained Rob.

He advised: “Try including some oily fish but you can also find B6 in lots of different foods across the board. So just make sure you include plenty of these in your diet to help with your sleep.”

How you eat before bed

How you eat before bed is also quite important, according to Rob.

He said: “If you’re prone to heartburn or any other types of indigestion then eating too quickly before you go to bed or eating very spicy foods can really have an impact and obviously disrupt your sleep.

“If you do suffer from heartburn, then it’s really useful to sleep on your left side, as this has been shown to help prevent acid reflux.”

Sleeping naked is good for your health, according to Neil Robinson, chief sleep officer at Sealy UK.

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