Eating for Better Sleep

We each have an individual, natural sleep-wake cycle called circadian rhythm. By being in sync with our rhythm, we can easily improve our sleep. A regular sleep//wake pattern can really make a big difference to waking up and reeling refreshed and ready to start your day or feeling sluggish and reaching out for the caffeine!

How food can effect your sleep?

I am sure it comes as no surprise that what we eat, and when we eat can massively effect your sleep. By simply allowing your digestive system to take a breather will promote better sleep. Your body's digestive system works hard each day to process the food you put into your mouth. Nighttime fasting i.e. no food after 7pm— allows your digestive system to take a much-deserved rest. Your stomach takes several hours to empty. A dinner or snack after 7pm likely doesn't have time to make it through the system before you fall asleep. Diet-induced blood sugar instability can provoke inflammation, insulin resistance, reactive hypoglycemia, and cortisol dysregulation.

This can lead to trouble falling and staying asleep. A recent study concluded: "Food intake during the nocturnal period is correlated with negative effects on the sleep quality of healthy individuals. Indeed, food intake near the sleeping period (dinner and late night snack) was negatively associated with sleep quality variables."

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that people who eat diets high in sugar and refined carbs tend to take longer to fall asleep and wake up more frequently during the night. Meanwhile, unhealthy fats could negatively affect your body’s normal sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to doze off at night and wake up refreshed in the morning. Unprocessed fresh foods actually deliver the nutrients your body needs to sleep better. Research shows that people with adequate levels of vitamin D—found in foods like eggs, mushrooms and fatty fish—are 33% less likely to experience insomnia than those with insufficient levels of this nutrient. Some findings suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like tuna and salmon can contribute to a better night’s rest. 

Your body relies on potassium and magnesium to help your muscles relax so you can drift off to sleep, our body also needs calcium in order to produce the hormone melatonin, which tells your body when it’s time to feel sleepy. Your defense system weakens if you do not get enough sleep, while we sleep, our skin cells rev up production of protective antioxidants for the next day.  This is very important, considering that antioxidants (our body produces some of them, and we take them in through fruits, vegetables, or skin-care products) can reduce free-radical damage to the skin from UV rays.

Food which act as 'Sleep Aids'

CHERRIES - Research has shown that natural melatonin from red tart Montmorency Cherries (Prunus cerasus) can increase sleep efficiency and quality. A study from an international group of researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice for seven days increased sleep by an average of 34 minutes a night – by speeding up falling to sleep – and increased sleep efficiency by 5-6%. the research found that drinking cherry juice increased 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels naturally – without the need of exogenous or synthetic melatonin supplements.

WALNUTS: Like tart cherries, walnuts contain melatonin—and eating them has been shown to increase levels of the hormone in your blood, according to Russel Reiter, Ph.D., a professor of cellular biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center says, “Relatively few foods have been examined for their melatonin content. Our studies demonstrate that walnuts contain melatonin, that it is absorbed when it is eaten, and that it improves our ability to resist stress in the body and also keep the heart healthy.”

Foods that naturally increase blood melatonin levels to help promote sleep include:

  • Oats
  • Sweet corn
  • Rice
  • Ginger
  • Tomatoes
  • Mangosteen
  • Barley
  • Pineapples 
  • Bananas 
  • Oranges 

    CALCIUM - Researchers indicate that the calcium is important because it helps the cells in the brain use the tryptophan to create melatonin — a natural body producing sleep aid.

    MAGNESIUM - Studies have shown that higher magnesium levels can help induce a deeper sleep, and as I noted, this is especially true when taken together with calcium for better absorption magnesium is a calming nutrient. goat’s milk kefir, foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds and even dark chocolate can help since they’re loaded with magnesium.

    POTASSIUM - Is a mineral that is used by the body cells to create an electrical conduction system across the cell membrane. These cell membrane transmissions promote heart function, nerve impulse transmissions and muscle contractions. Potassium has been associated with the prevention of stroke, osteoporosis and kidney stones, as well as the treatment of high blood pressure. Too little potassium, called hypokalemia, may affect sleep patterns, found in foods like sweet potatoes and bananas. 

    A 2007 study by Science Daily - research conducted on a sleep gene in fruit flies indicates specific genes help to control the flow of potassium into the cells. Since similar potassium channels are present in both fruit flies and humans, the researchers theorized that potassium channels help generate sleep in both species. If potassium channels are defective or absent, so are slow waves – oscillations across the brain that indicate deep sleep. A study in the August 1991 “Sleep” reports that potassium supplementation increased sleep efficiency and reduced episodes of waking after sleep onset.


    Bergamot oil and Lavender oil, in addition to sandalwood, frankincense and mandarin, can be combined to create a synergistic sleep-inducing blend.

    For topically application: Try mixing with a carrier oil, Jojoba oil is an excellent carrier oil suitable for sensitive skin. 

    50ml Jojoba oil add 1.5ml of essential oil in total (30 drops approximately maximum) 

    Try a blend of 5 drops of each (25 drops total into 50ml carrier oil of choice):
    Bergamot // Lavender // Sandalwood // Frankincense // Mandarin

    Diffuser: An excellent choice for using essential oils via inhalation, just choose you oil and add to the diffuser (following the manufactures instructions.)
    Conditions that respond well to the inhalation (method) of essential oils are nervous tension, stress, mental and physical fatigue, headaches, respiratory problems, asthma, colds, sore throats, blocked sinuses and coughs; all of which can hinder sleep.


    Chamomile Tea - Research has shown that a constituent in chamomile called apigenin can bind to GABA receptors in the brain, creating a mild response similar to anti-anxiety medication, such as Xanax, does. GABA is the second most common amino acid in the body and plays a huge role in our central nervous system, calming us down and, of course, helping us relax into sleep.

    Lavender Tea - Lavender is a scent that has been used to relax and unwind for centuries. Recently a study showed that people exposed to its odor had a change in brainwaves patterns, suggesting that it did indeed induce drowsiness.

    Valerian Root - Is a plant with roots that contain many healing properties, in particular for a relaxation and sedative effects. It’s often found in combination with chamomile in a tea. By increasing the amount of gamma aminobutryic acid (GABA), it helps calm the nerve cells in the brain, resulting in a calming effect. GABA works by blocking brain signals that cause anxiety and that ongoing trickle effect that can come from it. 

    SUPPLEMENTS - We can strive to only eat the most nutrient dense organic food but the reality is that unless you can grow this yourself, that it has been farmed. This means the food has to be picked before ripe so that it can be packaged and shipped to arrive on the shelves of the 'shop' and still be edible and have the longest shelf life possible. Choosing to eat locally grown, organic / bio-dynamically farmed seasonal food is the best first choice but not always achievable. For me this is where the addition of a supplement or two can help support your health. Find a local, recommended, Naturopath to help you asses your lifestyle and which additional supplements may be beneficial. Many independent health food stores have 'in-house' Naturopaths - this is a great place to start. Naturopaths also can recommend herbal supplements for example Flower Essences and Homeopathic Remedies that can be used individually or in combination formulas:

    Flower Essences - Made by infusing spring water with various flowers, are safe, gentle, and excellent for children. The most common remedies are:

    • Cherry plum - for relaxing and letting go chamomile tea
    • Impatiens - for releasing tension
    • White chestnut - for relaxing the mind

    Homeopathic RemediesLike flower essences, are safe and gentle enough for children. Some common homeopathics for sleeplessness are:

    • Aconitum napellus - for worry or fear
    • Belladonna - for restlessness
    • Coffea cruda - for nervousness and excitability
    • Hyoscyamus niger - for difficulty falling asleep
    • Passiflora - or wakefulness



    Until next time...

    be human | be kind | be you








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