If you start most days exhausted after another broken night’s sleep, then consider yourself in good, if a little bleary-eyed, company – a recent NHS study has shown that a third of the population have suffered from insomnia and disrupted sleeping patterns. With technology, stress and busy city lives all common factors in us losing our valuable eight hours a night, it seems simply counting sheep is no longer enough to have us nodding off into dreamland, and it’s affecting our day-to-day lives in more ways than we realise.
With quality of sleep being strongly linked with immunity, mental wellbeing and diabetes, we know the significance of a restful night for all-round wellness. Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways of curing nights spent tossing and turning is with our diet. Add these natural relaxation aids to your shopping basket for a peaceful, restful night’s slumber that will have you bounding out of bed with the sunrise ready to take on the day!
Far from just an old wive’s tale, grapefruit really does help you sleep due to its high levels of lycopene, an antioxidant that has been proven to assist slumber. Lycopene also has anti-ageing benefits and can help ward off heart disease and cancer, making grapefruit a true superfood. It’s well worth getting over the iffy taste to reap the sleep-inducing rewards of grapefruit, if you don’t like the bitterness on its own, add to salads for a zesty twist.
You never need to tell us to eat our greens, and kale is a regular fixture in the Hip & Healthy diet. A calcium deficiency can make it hard to fall asleep, and with one cup of kale having 137mg of the mineral, this superfood is one of the best plant-based sources on the planet. High in Vitamin K, kale also helps build and repair muscles as you sleep, which is when all of our hard work in the gym comes into fruition. Roast kale with olive oil and sea salt for a healthy and totally more-ish alternative to crisps.
Chickpeas are high in Vitamin B6, a source of serotonin and melatonin. The happy hormone, serotonin helps with mood and anxiety, whereas melatonin – one of the most important hormones when it comes to bedtime – helps regulate sleep cycles. Whizz these babies up with tahini and lemon juice for a delicious, creamy hummus and a better night’s rest.
When in season, cherries are not only a sweet snack they’re also a high source that wondrous hormone melatonin. A recent study on adults with insomnia showed moderate improvements when cherry juice was consumed prior to bed, so try juicing or simply grab a handful for a healthy pre-bed snack
Filled with magnesium, which helps your body relax allowing you to stay asleep for longer, almonds are the perfect snack for better sleep. They are also filled with tryptophan, which helps create the sleep-inducing neuro-transmitter serotonin. Eat a handful as a super simple snack or add to salads for a doze-inducing dinner.
Unlike regular potatoes, the sweet, orange alternative provide you with a range of antioxidants that help the body to fight those infamous free radicals, sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of magnesium to help relax muscles and melatonin to regulate sleep. Throw on some cinnamon and chop into wedges for an alternative to chips or if you’re feeling adventurous try our favourite Sweet Potato Brownies. Now that is functional night time snacking!
Dates are a dual action sleep enhancer, they are not only a high source of tryptophan, they also contain fast-acting carbohydrates which help the tryptophan take effect. Dates also happen to be our favourite healthy sweetener, try a raw brownie for dessert or simply stuff with nut butter to instigate that sought-after heavy-lidded drowsiness.
We all know there is nothing quite like a nighttime cup of tea and good cuppa has been used as a common remedy for insomnia for donkey’s years. Chamomile tea is full of relaxants and can serve as a mild tranquiliser, so drink a cup around an hour before bed. Try to avoid caffeine infused varieties though as they may keep you wide awake and having to spend time with those sheep aquaintences!
Packed with healthy carbohydrates, bananas are not just an energy-enhancing snack, when eaten at the right time they can also make you slow down. A high source of magnesium they have the ability to aid muscle relaxation and promote the production of our best friend, melatonin. Freeze bananas and whizz in the blender for a healthy alternative to ice cream.
words by Harriet Tisdall