Eating chocolate and cheese before bedtime can help you get a good night’s sleep, a leading nutritionist has claimed.
Sophie Medlin, a dietician and lecturer at King’s College London, said that chocolate is a high source of the amino acid tryptophan, which encourages the body to produce melatonin – an important hormone which controls our sleep patterns.
Cheese can also help boost melatonin levels, because it is rich in calcium, said Sophie.
Bed and mattress retailer Time 4 Sleep worked with dietitians and lecturers at Kings College London to identify the best foods to eat before bed in order to promote sleep.
Chocolate is a favourite late-night treat for people in the UK, with more than a third (38%) of the nation admitting that the sweet stuff is their snack of choice before bed, a recent study has revealed.
Although it might have the reputation of being one of the nation’s guiltiest pleasures, it turns out that chocolate could also be the secret to a good night’s sleep, according to a top nutritionist. The research, by bed and sleep specialist Time 4 Sleep, looked at the most popular foods consumed by people in the evening and revealed the top five to be:
- Chocolate (38%)
- Crisps (34%)
- Cheese (30%)
- Sweets (28%)
- Bread (26%)
Time 4 Sleep teamed up with dietician and lecturer at King’s College London, Sophie Medlin, to discover the foods which are best at promoting sleep and those we should avoid at all costs in the evening.
Surprisingly, chocolate was found to be one of the best foods to help you nod off at night due to it being a high source of the amino acid, tryptophan.
Sophie says: “Tryptophan is the biggest influence on melatonin levels, an important hormone which controls our sleep patterns. Melatonin is produced in the brain and the amount of it we produce, and how efficiently our brain uses it, is affected by our diet.
“Chocolate is a particularly good source of tryptophan, so a hot chocolate or a little bit of chocolate before bed is actually really good for sleep, so long as you don’t over-indulge.”
Other nutrients that help aid sleep include; B vitamins, calcium and magnesium, also due to their role in the release of melatonin in the brain. Foods rich in these nutrients include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli
- Soya beans
- Dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt
- Pulses such as beans, lentils and peas
The study by Time 4 Sleep also found that 35% of people in the UK are unaware of whether the food they eat before bed affects their quality of sleep. A further 35% said they do not believe the food they eat affects their sleep and 30% said they do believe it affects their sleep.
Avoid spicy, junk and processed foods
These foods should always be avoided late in the evening, especially if it’s something heavy and difficult to digest as it means that your body must stay active while it processes the food.
Timing is key
Many people may struggle with acid reflux if they lay down to sleep with a full stomach. If you notice that you tend to cough or clear your throat a lot in the morning, it may well be that you are refluxing acid into your mouth while you are sleeping. Try to finish eating at least an hour before bed to let your stomach empty.
Look out for hidden caffeine
Most people know to avoid coffee at night due to the caffeine, but you might not be aware of caffeine being hidden in other substances such as green tea and fizzy drinks, so it’s a good idea to stay away from these too.
Don’t go hungry
Being hungry also affects sleep as our bodies instinctively try to keep us awake to find food. Following overly restricted diets or diets that put us at risk of nutrient deficiencies can really affect our sleep. If you find yourself feeling hungry before bed, a glass of milk, a small banana or a few nuts around an hour before bed could help to improve your sleep and your willpower the next day.
To help you get the best possible night’s sleep, Time 4 Sleep worked with nutritionists, Frances Balding and Sophie Medlin, to put together the perfect sleep recipe