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A member of the British Dietetic Association, Juliette Kellow has worked in the NHS and for the food industry, and is the former editor of magazines Slimming and Top Santé. She's also the former editorial...

Can’t sleep? Follow these easy dietary tips to help tackle insomnia

 

Dietary dos and don’ts

DO lose weight if you need to
Being overweight is a major risk factor for sleep apnoea. This causes interrupted breathing, which can seriously disrupt sleep.

DO eat magnesium-rich foods
This mineral fights stress and relaxes muscles, and a deficiency has been linked with sleep problems. Magnesium is found in wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread, brown rice, green vegetables, seafood, nuts and seeds.

DON’T dine late
Avoid indigestion and heartburn, which will keep you awake, by having a light evening meal and allowing three hours before going to bed.

DON’T go to bed hungry, either
Low blood sugar levels release the hormone glucagon, which has a similar effect to adrenaline, keeping you alert. Try a bedtime snack of a slice of wholegrain toast with peanut butter or a couple of oatcakes with honey.

DON’T skip protein
Dairy products, meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are good sources of TRYPTOPHAN. But do avoid faddy diets where protein intakes are high and carb intakes low. These increase levels of an amino acid in the brain called tyrosine, which encourages the production of adrenaline.

To sip or not to sip

Swap evening hot drinks from caffeine to herbal
Caffeine is a known stimulant and will affect sleep patterns. Chamomile tea, on the other hand, soothes. Caffeinated drinks also have a diuretic effect so could have you running to the loo all night.

Go with tradition
A bedtime cup of warm milk really can help. Dairy products are rich in an amino acid (protein building block) called tryptophan, which helps to boost levels of serotonin – this in turn is converted into melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Plus the calcium in milk helps muscles relax.

Avoid pre-bed tipples
It may feel like alcohol helps you to fall asleep easily, but it disturbs your natural sleep rhythm. So you may wake in the night, sleep fitfully or not get the quality sleep you need to recharge your batteries.