But what if you could eat your way to better sleep? There aren’t many of us who don’t like to eat, so how about it?
In this article we’re going to look at more foods that could improve your sleep.
Researchers in Pennsylvania have looked at 2 years’ worth of sleep and nutrition data (2007-8). They then worked out what people who sleep long are doing differently to those who tend to sleep for much shorter periods.
They divided sleepers into:
- Very short sleepers – fewer than 5 hours per night
- Short sleepers – 5-6 hours per night
- Normal sleepers – 7-8 hours per night
- Long sleepers – more than 9 hours per night
They looked at what, and how much people ate, and found that people who sleep 7-8 hours (a normal sleeping pattern) eat differently to long sleepers and short sleepers.
What should sleepers eat?
People with a normal 7-8 hour sleep pattern ate diets that included a lot of these naturally occurring chemicals:
Short sleepers’ diets were deficient in these chemicals.
Long sleep, which can have negative health outcomes too, is associated with foods containing:
- Dodecanoic acid
- As well as a high carb intake and higher alcohol intake.
Both short and long sleepers’ diets were not as varied as normal sleepers’ diets.
Where can I get these better-sleep chemicals?
Eat more Lycopene.
Lycopene is both an antioxidant and a carotenoid. Antioxidants help to reduce the damage that environmental chemicals (often called free radicals) can do. Some studies have shown that lycopene can reduce the risk of many cancers and ageing eye problems.
Carotenoids are the pigments in the natural foods we eat and give foods their yellow, orange and red colours.
Foods containing the most lycopene include:
- tomatoes and tomato products (paste, ketchup, sauce etc)
- peppers (chilli and bell peppers).
- It’s also in watermelons, pink grapefruits, apricots, and pink guavas.
Eat more lutein and zeaxanthin.
These are also powerful antioxidants (see above) and are found together in many vegetables. They are also thought to be especially important for eye health and preventing age-related blindness.
You’ll find the most lutein and zeaxanthin in:
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Corn (maize)
- They are also in kiwi fruit, grapes, orange juice, zucchini (or vegetable marrow), and different kinds of squash.
If you’re a long sleeper eat less theobromine.
Theobromine is found in a lot of chocolate-based foods.
Although it’s poisonous to animals, it has plenty of good effects for humans (reducing oedema, mild depression, angina, asthma, arteriosclerosis, and as a muscular stimulant as well as a slight diuretic).
However the research into theobromine and sleep found that long sleepers’ diets were higher in theobromine than normal sleepers’.
The research didn’t say whether short sleepers might benefit from having more theobromine in their diets.
You can find theobromine in:
- Cocoa power (highest in Dutch chocolate)
- Dark chocolate
- Dry chocolate pudding mixes and instant breakfast mixes
- Kola nut
- Yerba Mate’ tea
Only you will know if changing your diet to include more of the foods we’ve looked at above will make a difference to your sleep. But what have you got to lose other than better health and potentially better sleep from a natural insomnia cure? You could try keeping a sleep journal to log the results you get.
Michael Grandner and his colleagues carried out the research we’ve talked about here. They work at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Grandner says “What we still don’t know is if people altered their diets, would they be able to change their overall sleep pattern…If we can pinpoint the ideal mix of nutrients and calories to promote healthy sleep, the health care community has the potential to make a major dent in obesity and other [health] risk factors,”.