The negative effects of sleep loss scarcely need mentioning, as anyone that has skipped a few night’s sleep can attest to the overwhelming impact it can have on the body.
What you may not realise is that consistently going without sleep can endanger your life, however, raising the risk of developing medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Luckily, you do not need to overhaul your lifestyle to promote a good night’s sleep as certain dietary decisions have been shown to do the trick.
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Drinking milk, for example, has been shown to boast sleep-inducing properties in multiple studies.
The sleep-promoting effect may be attributed to tryptophan, an amino acid found in milk that plays a role in creating serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s associated with sleep and melatonin levels – a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycles.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, tryptophan doesn’t immediately affect serotonin levels because tryptophan is just one of many different amino acids that are transported to the brain, and is often one of the least represented in foods so it is often sidelined.
This is where the combination of carbohydrates comes in. The health body explained: “There’s one thing that allows tryptophan to easily enter the brain: eating carbohydrates.
“Carbohydrates cause your body to release insulin, which removes all amino acids – except tryptophan – from your blood. That means that tryptophan has no competition and can enter the brain easily, boosting serotonin levels.”
As milk is a rich source of carbohydrate, it will react with the tryptophan in your body and give you a much bigger increase of serotonin.
There is also a psychological component to milk that may promote sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
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As the health body explained, there is a psychological link between warm milk and bedtime as a child, and just like hot tea, a warm drink of milk can provide the perfect soothing backdrop for a relaxing bedtime routine.
Cherry juice is also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to create melatonin, and multiple studies have shown that consuming the drink encourages the sleep-cycle.
While sweet and tart cherries contain melatonin, one study found that tart Montmorency cherries may have up to six times more melatonin than sweet Balaton cherries.
Furthermore, a seven-day study in 20 people found that drinking tart cherry juice concentrate daily significantly increased melatonin levels, compared with a placebo beverage.
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Echoing these findings, a similar study in 30 participants observed that consuming a cherry-based product twice daily improved nightly rest, decreased the number of nighttime awakenings, and resulted in higher urinary melatonin levels first thing in the morning.
In addition, one study noted that drinking two cups (480 ml) of cherry juice each day for two weeks increased total sleep time by 84 minutes and helped treat symptoms of insomnia in adults aged 50 and older.
Other simple self-help tips
It is important to create the conditions in your bedroom that will be most conducive to sleep.
According to the NHS, experts claim there’s a strong association in people’s minds between sleep and the bedroom so your external environment can either help or hinder the sleep process.
A key part of the relaxation process before bed is to shun distractions in your bedroom such as televisions and other electronic gadgets, light, noise, and a bad mattress or bed, says the NHS.
“Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex (or masturbation). Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years,” noted the health body.
Temperature can also hamper the sleeping process and for optimal sleeping conditions, the health body says to keep the temperature between 18C and 24C.
It added: “Fit some thick curtains if you do not have any. If you’re disturbed by noise, consider investing in double glazing or, for a cheaper option, use earplugs.”
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