The Mediterranean diet
The health benefits have been widely researched, and a Mediterranean diet has been shown to help in all areas of health.
Essentially, it involves a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals, a moderate intake of fish, a low to moderate intake of dairy foods and a low intake of beef and poultry.
It also means a high ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated flats; they can be found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Tryptophan has a lot of competition to make it across the blood-brain barrier, but including in your diet foods rich in carbohydrates, such as pasta, potatoes and rice, can increase its uptake. These foods elevate the hormone insulin, which helps the uptake of tryptophan in several ways.
A combination of tryptophan-rich foods teamed with carbohydrates may provide the perfect evening meal. Example dinners include turkey stir-fry with white rice, salmon with white pasta and pesto, and veggie chilli with rice or quinoa.
Ironically, white carbohydrates are better than wholegrain ones in supporting tryptophan transfer because they’re broken down more quickly, and the release of insulin is more rapid.
This is a mineral required to convert tryptophan to melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel drowsy, and research published in the journal European Neurology has found that disturbances in sleep, especially during REM, may be related to low levels of calcium. Be sure to include a good supply of calcium in your diet, with milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses, squash and canned fish.
Magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation by binding to gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) receptors responsible for quieting nerve activity. By doing so, it may help prepare your body for sleep. Magnesium also regulates melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in the body. Magnesium is found in dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, beans, lentils and pulses, oily fish, wholegrains, nuts and avocado.
This vitamin is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle. Most of us get enough vitamin B6 as it’s available in many foods, but it’s also easily depleted as a result of stress or excessive alcohol intake. While planning your sleep diet, be sure to include plenty of foods rich in vitamin B6 to keep levels topped up, such as pulses and lentils, liver, oily fish, poultry, bananas, soya foods, beef, lamb and pork.
When to eat before bedtime?
It all depends on lifestyle; how much you eat at mealtimes and what body weight you’re trying to achieve. It might be beneficial to eat protein and fibre-rich foods that are satisfying at night, because the evening is when most people scrabble around in the kitchen for snacks. However, some may choose to eat lighter in the evenings, preferring not to feel too full when they go to bed.