You probably already know this but just in case you don’t, I’ll say it again: Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things we can do in order to live healthier, happier lives. Believe it or not, so many problems we face today – stress, depression, heart disease and even obesity – could be solved, or at least lessened, with a decent night’s sleep.
After all, sleep deprivation doesn’t just make us tired, irritable and less productive people. It can damage our relationships, leave us vulnerable to all kinds of physical and mental illness and even make us dangerous to ourselves as well as others. If you’ve ever driven to work on an hour’s sleep, you’ll know what I mean!
So getting enough, good-quality sleep is absolutely essential – for everyone. Ignore those hotshot professionals who’ll tell you they only need 3 hours of sleep a night. Experts recommend that adults get 7–9 hours; anything less will eventually catch up with you.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are lots of great resources out there that can help. They’ll tell you things you may already know, like to create an evening routine, to make sure you have a comfortable mattress, to avoid watching tv right before bed and so on. But you may not know that there are even lots of sleep-promoting foods you can try, as a cheap and tasty way to get your snooze on.
Here are 4 of my favourites:
1. Pumpkin seeds
As well as being a delicious evening snack, pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body converts to serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’). This in turn forms melatonin, or the ‘sleep hormone’. Oh, and tryptophan has also been proven to treat anxiety, so it can help to calm those niggling bedtime worries, helping you to settle down when you need to. It’s no wonder why pumpkin seeds are known as a superfood!
Tip: Remove the seeds from the flesh of a pumpkin and dry roast for a few minutes before enjoying them as a pre-bedtime snack. You can also take a few drops of pumpkin seed oil daily to reduce anxiety and increase your chances of a sounder sleep.
Bananas are rich in potassium. Ok, ok, you probably knew that already. But did you also know that they’re a great source of magnesium and vitamin B6? It’s true!
This powerful combination of vitamins and minerals promotes feelings of happiness and calm – thanks to that lovely serotonin again! Both potassium and magnesium are muscle relaxants, too. So eating one of these yellow fellows before bed actually makes you feel calmer and more physically relaxed. Yay!
Tip: For a guilt-free after-dinner treat, try some homemade banana ice-cream! Simply chop and freeze two bananas, add a tsp of cacao powder (or leave plain, if you prefer) and blend with a dash of almond milk. It’s the best, and tastiest, prelude to a great night’s sleep.
If you haven’t heard of the amazing benefits of turmeric, frankly, you’ve been missing out. Because this golden wonder has been used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and with good reason, too.
Its anti-inflammatory and detoxifying benefits should be enough to make you take this spice seriously…and its sleep-related ones are pretty important for anyone who has trouble catching some zs.
Basically, turmeric reduces your blood-sugar levels, boosts your immune system and eases your digestive system – all of which allow your body to relax into a deep slumber.
Tip: For an incredibly soothing hot cup before bed, try making ‘golden milk’. Simply mix 1 tsp of organic turmeric powder with 1 tsp each of cinnamon and ginger. Add a cup of gently heated almond milk (which also contains magnesium…bonus!) and enjoy!
4. Sweet potatoes
If you’re having trouble sleeping, these tasty roots should be a staple in your diet.
Apart from being incredibly tasty – and a really fun colour – they’re full of potassium (aka muscle relaxant) and complex carbohydrates. These keep hunger at bay while you sleep, meaning your tummy is nice and full and not prone to loud rumbles!
By chewing down on sweet potatoes as part of your evening meal, both you and your partner can enjoy a sounder sleep. Sweet indeed!
Tip: Slice a sweet potato into thick chunks, sprinkle with coconut oil and a little pepper/paprika and bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Once your wedges are ready, enjoy them with a dollop of hummus – that way, you’re getting your sesame seed goodness in, too!
Well, that’s about it, folks. I’m sure you have at least one of these ingredients in your kitchen…so next time you’re cooking up a storm, why not add them in? You may just find your way to a great night’s sleep!