We’ve finessed our bedtime routines, absorbed the science of circadian rhythms, cleared out the bedroom clutter, battened down the blinds and left our phones at the door to ensure our sleep hygiene is spick and span. And yet, a good night’s rest remains for many of us as elusive as ever.

But what if instead of buying weighted blankets and sleep trackers, rethinking the supermarket shop could be the key to buying your way to a better kip?

New research shows that what we eat can have a significant effect on the quality of our sleep.

A study recently published in the journal Annual Review of Nutrition based on research by Columbia University in New York, found that eating a diet containing plenty of fruit and veg, plus legumes and dark whole-grain breads, is associated with better quality sleep.

Rob Hobson, nutritionist and author of The Art of Sleeping, is unsurprised by the study’s findings: “People who eat more fruit and vegetables generally have a healthier life overall. Many plant-based foods contain nutrients shown to help with sleep such as magnesium, tryptophan and B6.”

Here, he guides us through which foods harm and which help your sleep – and why.

Foods that help you sleep

The Mediterranean diet: 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.

Vital carbohydrates: 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.

Calcium: Be sure to include a good supply of calcium in your diet, with milk, yogurt, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses, squash and canned fish.

Magnesium: It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation. 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.

Vitamin B6: This vitamin is involved in the production of melatonin. 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 and lamb.

Foods that harm your sleep

White sugar/ fizzy drinks/desserts: Eating lots of sugar during the day can impact on your quality of sleep during the night and pull you out of a deep sleep. Sugar might also inhibit sleep as it causes the release of a hormone 
called norepinephrine that can stimulate 
the brain.

Red meat: If you have a meat-heavy diet, you’re eating more calories than you need and therefore you could be putting on more weight, which will disrupt your sleep. A better approach would be a piece of lean meat, like fillet steak, with salad and maybe a little rice. Going for poultry would make your evening meal slightly healthier.

Cheese and yogurt (high fats): There may be some truth in the old wives’ tale cautioning against eating cheese before bedtime; cheese contains a substance called tyramine, which has been linked to migraines.

The Daily Telegraph

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