When you think of what is vital for good health, a proper diet and regular exercise are probably the first things that come to mind. However, did you know that getting enough sleep plays a key role in achieving optimal health and wellness?

Regular and sufficient sleep habits have a number of proven health benefits

These include mental and physical health, quality of life and even safety.

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Sleep supports balanced brain function and for teens and children, sleep supports growth and development and improves learning and better overall behavior.

When a person gets sufficient sleep, he or she is better at problem solving and coping with change. So it is clear there are huge all round benefits.

But it works the other way too…

Lack of sleep has a big impact on mental health.

Those who suffer from anxiety and depression often have problems sleeping. Heart function, healthy balance of hormones, and one’s ability to manage their weight are all supported by optimal levels of sleep. Studies have shown insufficient sleep increases the risk of obesity.

So how can what you eat and drink impact your sleeping habits?

Some foods are actually good for sleep and others have the opposite effect.

Caffeine for example, affects the ability to fall asleep because it is a stimulant. This stimulant works by blocking the action of hormones in the brain that make you feel sleepy.

Alcohol seems to help you relax but it actually disrupts sleep over the course of the night. Alcohol prevents you from entering the deeper stages of sleep so even if you spend enough time in bed, you still feel tired when you wake up.

Foods for a good night’s sleep

As for supporting better sleep, foods with the amino acid tryptophan can promote sleepiness.

foods that help you sleep_2Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan. Tryptophan can be found predominately in poultry like turkey and chicken as well as seeds, nuts and beans.

Also, carbohydrates (CHOs) make tryptophan more available to the brain.

Eating a snack before bedtime containing CHOs and protein like cereal and milk, almond butter and toast, cheese and fruit, or a small whole grain tortilla with sliced turkey can be helpful for a good nights sleep.

Bananas are a good choice because they contain the muscle relaxing nutrients magnesium and potassium along with sleeps inducing CHOs. Other good sources of magnesium include avocados, nuts and seeds.

White and sweet potatoes along with tomatoes, deep yellow vegetables and oranges provide potassium.

A hot, steamy and relaxing cuppa

Caffeine free herbal teas have become popular in the evening to help one relax before bedtime.

Valerian root has been shown in some studies to improve the ability to fall asleep and sleep quality.

Chamomile is another tea that many turn to for its relaxing benefits.

Quality of life depends on many factors; sufficient and regular sleep being one of them. Before turning to over counter sleep aids or prescription medications, make sure you review your dietary habits for supporting good sleep.

Connect with Expert Angela Moore

References: Sleep Foundation, Mayo-clinic, Eating Well

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