health

5 foods that help you sleep better and longer.

Want Better Zzzzzs? Choose These Sleep-Friendly Foods.

By STEPHANIE OSFIELD

Do you ever feel like going to bed is a little like going to battle? With your brain?

Some days no matter how great it feels when I finally slip between the sheets, I end up wrestling them. My struggle? To locate the ‘off’ button. For my mind.

You see, sleep and me we have a bit of history. Our love/hate relationship goes way back. Every night I want so much to follow that soothing sandman all the way to the land of nod, but often my head just won’t. Co-operate.

So when it hits that pillow instead of going into slow-mo, I experience a full throttle alertness spike. Hello thoughts of my ‘to do’ list, late bills, unsigned school notes and the chicken I didn’t take out of the freezer! Bye-bye any dreamy drowsy hopes of dropping off. This is the complete opposite of my partner who fast-tracks to sleep the moment he falls into bed. Envy doesn’t even come close to what I feel when he pulls that off. I just want to whack him. With my pillow. Hard. Until he’s wide awake. Like me. Instead, I tough it out. Solo.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Sealy Posturepedic Matressess. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

But in my daily dance with sleep I know I’m not alone. Over the years I’ve had so many conversations with women of all ages about shuteye and the lack of it that I’ve thought about starting a TV talk show. Called ‘Sleep in the City’. With hard-hitting questions like: Did you get some tonight? Was it gooooooood? Looooooong? Deeeeeep? Meanwhile, I’ve tried plenty of sleep boosters and met with only minimal success. First up I tried sleeping pills, but the next day they gave me an unflattering zombie chic. And it took hours before my mouth could reconnect fully to my brain. Then I tried special herbal teas. Because friends swear by them. I drank. I waited. Drank more. Dashed to the loo in the wee hours. Dashed again. It was like doing night aerobics! But faster sleep? No go.

In recent years I’ve also tried a spritz of lavender on my pillow (think serial sneezing). Ear plugs? Made me feel like I was doing an underwater cameo in SpongeBob Square Pants. Eye mask? Always migrated to my nose or mouth. Or both. I even bought a new mattress which is super-comfy.  My body feels great now but my mind is still racing. Feeling defeated, I’d kind of resigned myself. To waking up every day like the Titanic being raised.

But recently I’ve discovered a whole new approach to insomnia based on diet- and specifically, foods that help you sleep. Because one of my kids has had a few issues around nodding off and staying asleep. It made me do more super sleuthing to find if any foods might help. The news? All good. There are numerous foods that help you sleep by promoting the hormones that make you sleepy. And they’re not Bear Grylls style suggestions like sipping on elephant dung or snacking on a crunchy scorpion! In fact, they all qualify big in the yummy stakes. Here’s the foods that help you sleep which you need to pop in your shopping trolley:

‘Cherry juice boosts levels of melatonin, which is like the ‘Big Kahuna’ of sleep hormones.’

1. Cherry Juice

Tasty and easy to serve – this is my top pic. A study at Northumbria University found that cherry juice boosts levels of melatonin, which is like the ‘Big Kahuna’ of sleep hormones. It helps set your body clock to light and dark and lowers your temperature in readiness for sleep. The study showed that cherry juice encouraged faster sleep onset and improved sleep quality in insomniacs as well as boosting their sleep duration (the cherry drinkers slept almost 40 minutes longer). I could sure use me some of that!

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Serving Suggestion: The study used 30ml of cherry juice concentrate (equal to around 100 cherries) in 200ml of water. People downed their juice 30 minutes after waking and 30 minutes before their evening meal. Montmorency cherries were used. They are extra tart and boast the highest melatonin levels. But other cherry varieties contain melatonin too, so they will also do the trick.

2. Jasmine Rice

Tryptophan is an amino acid found in rice. Your brain uses it to create ‘feelgood’ chemicals, which help you feel happier and more relaxed. All types of rice kickstart this brain chemical, but a recent University of Sydney study found that eating a meal with jasmine rice sent people to sleep more quickly than eating long or short grain varieties.

Serving Suggestion: Tuck into a stew, casserole or mild curry served on a bed of jasmine rice on busy days when you know you might struggle more with wakefulness.

Aim for a palmful of walnuts as a snack an hour before bedtime.

3. Walnuts

These boast a sleep-inducing double whammy effect; they are loaded with tryptophan and recent research from the University of Texas discovered they contain melatonin too.

Serving Suggestion: It’s not yet clear just how many walnuts max your sleep benefits, so aim for a palmful as a snack an hour before bedtime.

4. Chick Peas

Their levels of vitamin B6 help your body to produce more melatonin in your brain.

Serving Suggestion: Throw them into a salad or soup at dinner or eat them as an evening snack of hummus served with vegetable sticks.

A warm cup of milk before bed will bring on the zzzzzs!

5. Milk

Those old wives were clever. They knew what science has now confirmed. Dairy foods like yoghurt, cheese and milk are all high in calcium, which causes a chain reaction that ramps up those same sleep enhancers – tryptophan and melatonin. Some health experts also think that milk might make us feel sleepy by giving us the warm and fuzzies because we associate it with comfort and childhood.

Serving Suggestion: You know the drill – a warm cup of milk about half an hour before bed. With or without honey. Bring on the zzzzzs!

I’ve been so excited about the potential of these foods that help you sleep, I thought about throwing them all into the blender and making a ‘sleepy smoothie’. But my daughter wasn’t so hot on the idea of a chick peas and cherry combo. So instead I’ve stocked up on a few and we’re going to road-test them. Together. Who knows, this time next week, blood-shot sleep deprived eyes and birds-nest hair may no longer be my fashion staple every morning. And counting sheep/pink pussycats and pet rocks? No longer required. Wish me luck!

We all do a lot to take care of our bodies during the day, but what are we doing to take care of it at night? Along with a healthy diet and exercise, a good night’s sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing.  Good sleep is within our reach: with Sealy’s Titanium-alloy coils and unique ComfortCore centre, every Sealy Posturepedic bed is designed to allow you to completely relax and recover.  Designed in conjunction with orthopaedic surgeons, Sealy’s unique coil design senses and responds to the shape of your body to deliver the correct support that’s right for you.

What triggers your sleep problems? Have you found certain foods that help you sleep better? 

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