In our fast-paced world, good quality sleep sometimes feels like a luxury. In Australia, it is estimated that over 1.5 million individuals struggle with some form of sleep problem each day (1).
Fortunately, you can make simple fixes to achieve more restful sleep. This includes sticking to a sleep schedule, clearing your bedroom of distractions or eating specific food to help sleep. What you eat plays an important role in your sleep and how well-rested you are each night (2).
Combating daytime sleepiness
Most Australians experience insomnia in their lifetime, with about one in 10 struggling with mild insomnia at any given point (7).
However, chronic lack of sleep can have negative consequences on your daytime routine. If you haven’t set in place practices for how to sleep well, you may find it extra challenging to be at your best. You may find it hard to concentrate or problem-solve, have insufficient energy to socialise, and be fully present in activities. You may also become irritable or feel disengaged and uninterested in your daily activities. Lack of quality sleep, if allowed to go on unaddressed, may even increase your risk of developing anxiety and mood-related disorders (7).
Following this, you may want to consider how diet can impact the quality of your sleep, and the role of supplements in the equation.
Foods to help sleep and reduce nighttime restlessness
The following are food options to help with sleep:
Complex carbs provide a supply of glucose that is released slowly within the body (3). This is as opposed to simple carbohydrates that give you a fast, sharp spike of glucose that ends in a “sugar crash”.
Complex carbs provide you with a steady supply of energy; this means you’re well-fueled during the day when you are most active. As you near bedtime, glucose levels taper off gradually, allowing your body to slow down and for you to feel a sense of tiredness to help doze off easily (4).
A diet composed of a lot of simple carbs can also reduce serotonin levels and negatively affect sleep quality. Serotonin is needed to produce melatonin, the main hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycles and induces restful, quality sleep (2).
Complex carbs can be found in legumes, nuts, and potatoes (5), while whole grain varieties of bread, cereal, and pasta are also excellent sources. Try to avoid sugary foods like cookies, cakes, commercial chocolates, ice cream, and most other processed sweets as they’re likely pumped with simple carbs.
Lean proteins are essential components in any healthy diet and promote healthy sleep since they are rich in tryptophan, a type of amino acid that contributes to serotonin production (2). Prepare more dishes with beef, lamb, chicken, and pork to increase your intake of food to help sleep better. You can also snack on cheese for the same purpose, but opt for the low-fat variety.
Fresh herbs (2) have several therapeutic properties that make them ideal food to help sleep. Chief among them is ashwagandha, a herb that has been widely used in Ayurveda, a traditional system of Indian medicine. It’s often consumed as a herbal tea, but many take it as a vitamin supplement.
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body adapt to stressful conditions by reducing the effects of physical, chemical, and biological stressors. It does this by increasing a person’s endurance to fatigue and reducing our susceptibility to stress-related disorders, including disturbed sleep, caused by imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system (6).
Ashwagandha, when consumed as a supplement, or as a food, can enhance sleep quality or deep sleep, and reduce time to fall asleep.
Ashwagandha for sleep
Taking ashwagandha as a tea or as a supplement helps promote refreshing sleep.
Given its adaptogenic potential, ashwagandha has properties that counter the effects of stress, which may enhance refreshing sleep. Studies suggest that the mechanisms by which ashwagandha relieves stress stem from its moderating effect on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that regulates our body’s central stress responses. When overstimulated by prolonged and intense stress, the HPA axis may become dysregulated, leading us to stay in a state of over-alertness and unable to reach a state of rest and calm needed for refreshing sleep. A disturbed HPA axis can also stimulate the over-production of the stress hormone cortisol, and when our body has too much cortisol, one of the consequences can be disturbed, restless sleep (8).
Ashwagandha also reduces sleeplessness. It contains chemical components called alkaloids that are considered a sedative and this is what gives it its sleep-inducing potential. This may help you avoid broken sleep, that may result in you feeling sluggish or lethargic the next day. When it comes to maintaining refreshing sleep, the goal is quality, not quantity, of your sleeping hours (9).
If you’re looking for custom vitamin packs that include ashwagandha for sleep, look no further than Vitable Australia whose supplements are tailor fit to you. Vitable’s Ashwagandha Plus formula not only contains ashwagandha but other adaptogenic herbs like Ziziphus and Schizandra that helps the body adapt to stress. In addition to Ashwagandha, you can assemble a vitamin pack of your very own based on your unique needs, complete with a vitamin delivery.
- Reawakening the Nation. (2012). Sleep Health Foundation. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/component/content/article.html?id=76. Accessed September 09, 2021
- Cleveland Clinic. (2020). 5 Foods That Help You Sleep. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-foods-that-help-you-sleep/ Accessed September 14, 2021
- Mayo Clinic. Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705 Accessed September 14, 2021
- Mayo Clinic. Maximize memory function with a nutrient-rich diet. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/maximize-memory-function-with-a-nutrient-rich-diet Accessed September 14, 2021
- Healthdirect. Carbohydrates. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/carbohydrates Accessed September 14, 2021
- National Institutes of Health. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/. Accessed September 09, 2021
- Healthdirect. Insomnia. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/insomnia. Accessed September 09, 2021
- National Center for Biotechnology Information Search database ( 2020 ). HPA Axis and Sleep. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279071/. Accessed September 13, 2021.
- National Library of Medicine. (2002). Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11825133/. Accessed September 09, 202110.
- Sleep Foundation. (2021). Sleep Latency. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/sleep-latency#:~:text=Sleep%20latency%20is%20the%20technical,10%20and%2020%20minutes2 Accessed September 09, 2021