Getting a good night’s sleep enables our body to repair and protect itself against inflammation. Some evidence suggests that not getting enough sleep may increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Although the occasional sleepless night or poor quality sleep will probably make you feel tired and irritable, it won’t have much of a negative impact on your overall health. However, if you are consistently not sleeping well, or for long enough, your health can suffer. A lack of sleep, over a prolonged period, can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
So how much sleep do you need?
The amount of sleep needed depends on the individual. If you wake up feeling tired and are tired most of the day, then you probably need more sleep. On average around 6 to 9 hours a night is required by an adult.
Top tips to help you sleep
1. Aim to go to bed at a similar time and follow a similar routine each night to help you relax and prepare for sleep.
2. Set a ‘go to bed’ reminder on your phone at a time that will allow you to have an adequate sleep before the time you need to wake up in the morning.
3. Make your environment as calming and relaxing as possible in the evening. Listen to music and read a book, instead of watching TV or looking at your phone or laptop just before bed.
4. Write a ‘to do’ list for the next day. This should help organise your thoughts and clear your mind from other distractions.
5. Have a warm bath before bed, as this helps get your body to a temperature ideal for sleeping.
6. Do some gentle yoga stretches for 5 or 10 minutes to help you relax before going to bed.
Are there any foods that can help you sleep?
Some food may help you sleep better. Foods containing the amino acid tryptophan can help promote sleep. Tryptophan is found in foods such as eggs, chicken, fish, cheese, milk, nuts, seeds and bananas. Increasing the amount of tryptophan reaching the brain will raise the level of serotonin and melatonin which can help you sleep.
To help tryptophan reach the brain, it is best to combine tryptophan-containing foods with some carbohydrate-containing foods. This will stimulate the release of insulin which clears the other amino acids from the bloodstream and helps tryptophan reach the brain. Having one or two oatcakes with cheese, a small glass of banana milkshake or a slice of nut butter on toast will provide a useful combination of tryptophan and carbohydrate. The old saying of having a warm oat milk drink before bed may just be the perfect solution for a good night’s sleep!