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Ten ways people can change their lifestyle and diet to help them sleep more soundly

Most of us make a New Year’s Resolution to get fitter or healthier, but just a few small changes to lifestyle and diet can also make a world of difference to our sleep throughout the year

A person’s lifestyle and what they eat and drink can have a dramatic effect on their sleep patterns, according to doctors and sleep experts. A few changes in what people consume, and when they exercise or take a break, could improve the amount of sleep achieved – which will, in turn, help to improve general wellbeing.

Carbohydrate-rich foods

According to dietician at Leeds Beckett University, Louise Sutton, eating carbohydrate-rich foods two to three hours before bedtime, such as toast or porridge, will help stimulate the release of insulin, which opens the pathways for tryptophan – the sleep hormone – to reach the brain.

Fish, fish and more fish

Eating plenty of oily fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon, which are excellent sources of omega-3 DHA fatty acids, can improve the quality of sleep, as reported by researchers at the University of Oxford.

Breakfast

It’s often mentioned that skipping breakfast is bad for us, but why? The human body reacts to the lack of food by pumping out stress hormones, and therefore making the person more tired. A balanced breakfast provides more energy and focus, and healthy snacks during the day will maintain those levels to reduce fatigue.

All of colours of the rainbow

Eating more healthy red and orange-coloured foods such as carrots and tomatoes, which contain the antioxidant compound, lycopene, can make a difference to sleep, according to the University of Pennsylvania. They also found that people who do not drink tap water during the day are poorer sleepers.

Cherry on top

Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Adults with insomnia who drank a glass of Montmorency cherry juice twice a day for two weeks saw sleep time increased by nearly 90 minutes, as discovered in a study from Louisiana State University.

Exercise

The less exercise a person does, the more tired they can feel, which in turn means they will be even less inclined to exercise! Experts suggest going for a walk, even when feeling tired, to stimulate energy and wake up the body – even just 20 minutes a day can help.

Rice = Sleep

Eating white rice can trigger a deeper sleep, as found by Japanese researchers, however, eating white bread, pancakes or pizza had no effect. Unfortunately, noodles and pasta can have a detrimental impact on sleep.

 Break your day up

Working people should take breaks during the day, to lower the stress hormones, particularly if they have a hectic and energy-sapping job. Holidays should always be taken, too – making sure that the person switches off completely during those precious vacations.

Dairylicious

Contrary to popular belief, eating cheese before bedtime does not give people nightmares. In fact, studies have shown that dairy products like milk and cheese promote sleep in several ways, as they include calming minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which relax muscles, as well as peptides, which have anti-stress effects. They are also a source of tryptophan, needed for the production of the natural melatonin hormone, which helps with sleep.

Caffeine bad(ish)

Reducing one’s intake of caffeine, alcohol and spicy meals in the evening is proven to help with sleep. If this still does not work, a short, controlled period of fasting has been shown to improve sleep quality and relaxation.

Dr Susan Biali M.D., nutritionist and wellness expert, suggests that a change in behaviour or routine can significantly improve your sleep. She says, “If you have trouble falling asleep at night, it may be because you don’t take time to transition properly from your busy day into bedtime. Create a wind-down routine for yourself, such as making yourself a drink, some relaxing yoga or a few moments of mindfulness. Practice finding small islands of time for yourself throughout the day, whenever you can. You’ll feel so much better, and you’ll sleep better, too.”

More advice on getting a better night’s sleep can be found on the Dreams Sleep Matters web site at www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/