How to sleep: Eating proteins ‘switch the body’ to rest-and-digest mode – good foods

Dr Michael Mosley on the importance of routine for sleep

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Sleeping through the night is not something everyone is always able to do, and there is a lot of advice to be found around improving your quality of sleep, and adopting healthy sleep routines. If you have insomnia for less than three months, it is called short-term insomnia. Insomnia that lasts three months or longer is called long-term insomnia. For most, sleep problems tend to sort themselves out within about a month, according to the NHS.

The Sleep Charity says: “Achieving a great night’s sleep can be affected by what you eat in the hours before bedtime.

“Certain foods are known to calm the brain and help promote sleep so eating the right things in the evening is definitely part of the recipe for a good night’s kip.

“We don’t recommend eating a big meal just before bedtime as it can lead to discomfort and indigestion, but some people find a small snack a helpful aid to sleep.”

It states: “Proteins help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping and switch the body from alert adrenaline cycle to rest-and-digest mode, while complex carbohydrates increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream.”

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It adds: “Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make sleep-inducing serotonin and melatonin, the relaxing neurotransmitters that slow down nerve traffic and stop the brain buzzing.”

The American Sleep Association notes research from Purdue University has found that people who are losing weight through a high-protein diet are sleeping better too.

The health body says: “As is typical, additional research is needed to confirm the theory that more protein equals better sleep, but these findings are promising, researchers believe.”

It warned: “As has been seen in previous studies, poor sleep can lead to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and early death.”

Everyone needs different amounts of sleep. On average adults need seven to nine hours, while children need nine to 13 hours. Toddlers and babies need 12 to 17 hours of sleep, every day.

Caffeine and alcohol can stop you falling asleep and prevent good quality sleep. Therefore, it is recommended that people cut down on alcohol and avoid caffeine close to bedtime.

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things.

Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep, and also prevents deep sleep.

Electronic devices, including computers, televisions, smartphones, and tablets, all emit strong blue light. When you use these devices, that blue light floods your brain, tricking it into thinking it’s daytime.

As a result, your brain suppresses melatonin production and works to stay awake.People with insomnia will regularly find it hard to go to sleep, can wake up several times during the night and lie awake at night.

They might also find it difficult to concentrate during the day because they are tired, or wake up early and find they cannot go back to sleep.

“Some people are naturally lighter sleepers or take longer to drop off, while some life circumstances might make it more likely for your sleep to be interrupted, like stressful events or having a new baby,” the NHS states.

If poor sleep is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you can talk to your GP.

The NHS says how we sleep and how much sleep we need is different for all of us and changes as we get older.

The NHS says: “Most people experience problems with sleep in their life.

In fact, it’s thought that a third of Brits will have episodes of insomnia at some point.”People who smoke also tend to take longer to fall asleep, wake up more frequently, and often have more disrupted sleep.

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