Do you struggle getting good sleep and struggle through the day? What you eat before bed can help improve your quality of sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health, yet despite the experts advising us to get between 7 to 8 hours each night, studies show that around half of the adults in Australia are getting nowhere near that amount. It would seem that people aged between 35 and 44 fare the worst, stating that long working hours, watching too much television and having too much to do, were the main reasons for their lack of shut eye.

Apart from the obvious tiredness, over time a lack of sleep can lead to surprising side effects like weight gain, anxiety, hypertension and impaired judgement. Such is the detrimental effect of chronic insomnia on your relationships, work and self image, that it can be tempting to fall into the pattern of taking over-the-counter medications, which can quickly become a hard habit to break.

Many people may be surprised to know that your diet can have a huge impact on sleep patterns, and certain foods have the ability to help you get a better night’s sleep. For acute episodes of sleeplessness, try including some of the following in your evening meal:

  • Poultry products such as chicken and turkey contain a chemical known as tryptophan. This amino acid helps your body make melatonin, the brain chemical essential for sleep. Many people are unaware that milk also contains tryptophan, this could go a long way towards explaining why having a milky drink at bedtime is one of the simplest ways to help you drift off.
  • Sour or tart cherry juice contains melatonin. Drinking some juice one hour before bed can help your body to produce the much needed sleep hormones.
  • Potassium is an important mineral that helps to relax muscles, and potassium deficiency is also known to cause fatigue. For this reason it may be helpful to include potassium rich foods such as bananas, plain yogurt and avocados in your diet to help combat sleepless nights.
  • In a recent study, scientists found that eating 2 kiwi fruits, one hour before bedtime increased the length of time that a person slept. This is because kiwis contain high levels of antioxidants and serotonin. There is much research about antioxidant nutrients and the quality of sleep and reduction of conditions such as sleep apnoea. Serotonin is involved in initiation of sleep and promotes rested wakefulness in the morning. Serotonin and melatonin are required for the sleep wake cycles of the body.
  • Finally, certain herbs are renowned for their ability to promote sleep. Chamomile, vervain and peppermint are all good choices. Taken with a teaspoonful of honey (which essentially contains orexin, another important chemical for sleep regulation) herbal teas are a tried and trusted way of helping you drift off into a natural and blissful sleep.

If you’re having trouble sleeping and a change of diet doesn’t seem to help, there may be an underlying reason for your insomnia. Looking into creating good routines and identifying your cortisol/melatonin cycle will help restore your sleep and therefore your energy. Find a health practitioner that can help you identify your causes and address them.