Why is Sleep Important?

During sleep, our body conserves energy to repair itself. If we don’t sleep, our health can be severely impacted. The circadian rhythm, our sleep-awake cycle, remains unchanged no matter what time we go to bed or get up, however, what our bodies do when we sleep is the super important part of health that no one probably told you about.

Our body clock governs the release and timing of our energy, sleep and mood-regulating hormones. During 10pm – 2am, physiological repair takes place. During 2am – sunrise, psychological repair occurs. During this maintenance period for the brain, certain genes are also created that aren’t created when we’re awake. Genes are also switched on in order to do their business.

Data is processed, memory and creativity become enhanced. Our bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, tissues, cells and metabolic pathways are all restored. The waste our cells produce as a by-product of nutrients need to be cleared out too, particularly in the brain. Our lympathic systems might clear our bodies out from the neck down, but the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain travels throughout the brain, blood vessels and brain cells to clear the waste out and dump it into the blood to be disposed of. Without sleep, our bodies don’t get cleaned.

The best foods to eat before bed to enhance our quality of sleep include:

Almonds – An excellent source of melatonin, a hormone which regulates your body clock and signals your body that it’s time to sleep. They also have magnesium, which is proven to improve sleep quality, including for those with insomnia. It is thought that due to magnesium’s connection to reducing inflammation, it may help to reduce cortisol which is known to interrupt sleep. More research needs to be done, however, to continue to prove this theory.

Turkey – Containing tryptophan, an amino acid, which increases melatonin within the body. The protein in turkey may also contribute to the feeling of tiredness you get after you eat turkey.

Chamomile Tea – Chamomile can boost your immune system, reduce anxiety and depression, improve skin health and improve sleep quality. It contains apigenin, an antioxidant, which promotes sleepiness and reduces insomnia. A study in 2011 found that adults who consumed 270mg of chamomile extract twice a day fell asleep 15 minutes faster and woke up less during the night.

Kiwi Fruit – Adults who eat two kiwi fruits one hour before bed each night were 42% more likely to fall asleep than when they didn’t eat anything before bed. This can be attributed to serotonin, which is a brain chemical that helps regulate the sleep cycle. The vitamin C and carotenoids also contained in kiwi fruit can also promote sleep.

Tart Cherry Juice – Studies suggest that it works on those with insomnia, as well as enhancing your sleep quality. Tart cherry juice contains high amounts of melatonin which is essential in promoting sleep.

Fatty Fish – The nutrient synergy between vitamin D and omega-3 in salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna has the potential to enhance sleep quality and increase the production of serotonin. Vitamin D has been linked to a significant improvement in sleep quality.

Walnuts – One of the best source of melatonin, walnuts are thought of to improve sleep quality. The fatty acids within walnuts may also help sleep quality. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3, converts to DHA in the body. DHA may increase the production of serotonin.

Passionflower Tea – Containing apigenin, an antioxidant, reduces anxiety within the body, creating a calming effect by binding to certain receptors within the brain. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibits other brain chemicals that induce stress, such as glutamate. This could promote sleepiness within the body.

White Rice – Eating foods with a high GI (high glycemic) index, like rice, at least one hour before bed can improve sleep quality. Of course, it’s important that we eat white rice in moderation, due to it’s low fibre and nutrients.

Naked Harvest have produced a product called Hot Choc Moon Mylk which is designed to help you switch off at the end of a long day. The ingredients, particularly Magnesium, have a calming effect on your central nervous system, allowing you to relax and calm your mind and body. If you wish to purchase this game changer, click here. This mylk contains passion flower and magnesium.

Pukka Herbs have also released a Night Time tea, which I have used for years, which leaves you feeling peaceful and ready for rest. If you wish to purchase this product, click here. This tea contains lavender and chamomile.

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