It’s official, we don’t sleep enough. A staggering 33 per cent of us are not getting enough sleep with women aged 35-44 affected the worst, recent research revealed. The survey, looked at the sleeping habits of 14 countries and found those in Britain are the worst sleepers.
But, it’s not all bad news. If you suffer from insomnia, changes to diet can rapidly improve your sleep. People have been using food and herbs traditionally for centuries to help them nod off, from cups of hot milk to chamomile tea. Now, we’re starting to understand the reasons behind some of the foods that help calm the body and promote a restful night’s sleep.
Here are some of the best foods to help you sleep:
Certain amino acids found in foods can help with sleep by nourishing the nervous system. One of those being closely studied right now is L-theanine, dubbed ‘the relaxation amino acid’ and found in green tea, black tea, white and matcha green teas. L-theanine is an amino acid found to enhance sleep and also help reduce anxiety in a growing number of scientific papers.
The health benefits of humble chamomile tea have been shown to be wide-ranging, from anti-inflammatory properties to wound healing, anti-diabetes and even benefits to the common cold and cardiovascular health.
It’s best known for its effect on sleep and that’s not without some great evidence, thanks to a flavonoid it contains called apigenin and that has anti-anxiety properties. It binds to receptors in the brain that increase levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that can have a calming and sedative effect.’
Cinnamon nourishes the nervous system by calming the blood sugar levels. Repeated research has shown it can even help lower the blood sugar levels of type 2 diabetics. This is important from an insomnia perspective because often if you find yourself waking up in the early hours, it could be down to blood sugar spikes that subsequently wake you up as your blood sugar drops. Adding a sprinkling of cinnamon before bed to your evening snack or even a little cinnamon in some chamomile tea could make early morning waking easier.
Ginger calms the stomach, via a chemical ingredient called gingerol which helps with stomach contractions. It also relaxes the system generally and is also a good circulatory tonic. One randomised controlled study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine looked at the effects of taking a supplement containing ginger and showed that it reduced the time it took for insomniacs to fall asleep.
Ginger is a great overall tonic for the nervous system too. A 2010 study published in the journal Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry found that ginger might bind to the brain’s serotonin receptor which could have a calming effect on anxiety. Serotonin is the brain’s feel good neurotransmitter.
LEMON, LIME AND BLOOD ORANGE
Lemon, lime and blood orange are rich in vitamin C. This isn’t just just an immune booster but also nourishes the adrenal glands. When you nourish your adrenal glands the system calms down which can help with the anxiety and stress that can cause insomnia. Studies have also shown that a lack of vitamin C could contribute to sleep loss.