This is a debatable topic, as we cannot assume a “cause and effect” relationship. One cannot draw conclusions as to which specific components of a diet are linked to good sleep. For example, where a study observes a negative effect of fried foods on sleep, the interpretation can be fourfold: (1) nutrients (in this example saturated fats) are responsible; (2) food items (fried foods, or lack of vegetables and fruit) are responsible; (3) diet quality (frequent consumption of fried foods lowers the overall quality of the diet) is responsible; and (4) eating behaviours (a lifestyle with frequent visits to fast-food restaurants) are responsible.
We do know however that a link exists between poor sleep and increased caloric consumption: poor sleep, especially short sleep duration (<6 hours a night) is associated with an increase in appetite hormones, often leading to overeating and contributing to weight gain.
|Did you know?Research conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport reported that small doses of tryptophan (1 g) may improve both the time taken to fall asleep, and sleep quality. This can be achieved by consuming approximately 300 grams of turkey or approximately 200 grams of pumpkin seeds.|
The protein building amino acid, called tryptophan, and various group B vitamins are used by the body to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter best known for inducing feelings of calmness and drowsiness.
According to recently reviewed studies, a balanced and varied diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources (all of which contain plenty of tryptophan, as well as group B vitamins and minerals) and unrefined carbohydrates may well assist in improving sleep.
Despite the limited clinical evidence for the “perfect sleep promoting diet”, certain foods may be useful in a number of cases. Studies have shown the following food sources to have a beneficial effect:
Choosing foods that increase serotonin production may help some people into slumber. However, the scientific evidence on these are far from strong, but if you like them, there’s no harm in trying!
|Food source||↑ serotonin||↓ serotonin|
|Carbohydrates||Complex carbohydrates rich in fibre:Beans, lentils, barley, pumpkin, chickpeas||Refined carbohydrates:Breads, pasta and sweets such as cookies, cakes, pastries and other sugary foods|
|Protein||Low-fat cheese, chicken, turkey and fish (including prawns and crayfish)||High-fat cheeses, deep-fried fish or chicken|
|Fat||Unsaturated fats:walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds||Saturated and trans fats:Samosas, potato chips or other high-fat snack foods|
|Beverages||Milk, chamomile tea, passion flower tea||Caffeine products (coffee, Ceylon tea, cola drinks) – aim to limit or eliminate consumption after 3pm.|