Can Food Affect Sleep?
We are what we eat, but can it affect how we sleep?
By IRINA RUSEVA, founder of Happy Meals Nutrition
There is a misconception at large when it comes to babies between 4 and 6 months that they start sleeping better once they are introduced to solids. Whilst this is a tempting proposition there is no evidence to support the same and can lead to parents introducing solids too early or building unhealthy habits for life. In fact consuming too many calories during the day is associated with poor sleep in adults.
When it comes to older children (over 2s) however and adults there certainly are a number of nutrients which have been proven to support better sleep.
The number one nutrient when it comes to sleep is tryptophan – it is an essential amino-acid (ie needs to be obtained from food and can’t be produced by the body) which is a precursor to serotonin (the happy hormone) which is a precursor to melatonin (our sleep hormone). Some of the foods rich in tryptophan are turkey meat, eggs, sweet potato, chia seeds, bananas, pumpkin seeds, almonds and yoghurt. So a perfect dinner for a toddler can be some Greek yoghurt with a chopped in banana (or berries) a tea spoon of chia seeds, a tea spoon of ground or chopped pumpkin seeds and some almond butter stirred through.
“There is a misconception at large when it comes to babies between 4 and 6 months that they start sleeping better once they are introduced to solids. Whilst this is a tempting proposition there is no evidence to support the same and can lead to parents introducing solids too early or building unhealthy habits for life “
The other two helpful nutrients are vitamin B6 and vitamin D. B6 amongst other things is an essential vitamin which helps modulate the body stress response and relax the nervous system. Some of the best sources are tuna, sweet potatoes, spinach, bananas, chicken, salmon, yoghurt.
Vitamin D is an often overlooked nutrient when it comes to sleep. It plays an important role in blood sugar control which is essential for good quality sleep and waking up rested. It also supports energy levels and metabolism during the day. The best source of vitamin D is from sunlight, so careful sun exposure – early morning before 10 am and adequate supplementation in winter is key. There are some foods such as mackerel, oysters and mushrooms which have some amounts of vitamin D but not as optimal as sun exposure.
Irina is a Nutritionist and founder of Happy Meals Nutrition based in South Manchester, passionate about supporting others in transforming their health and achieving their full potential, because when we feel at our best there is hardly anything we can’t do. Follow Irina on Instagram for more helpful nutrition tips.