How to sleep: Seven ways to promote good sleep – have you tried this?

Sleep statistics paint a gloomy picture.

According to research carried out by the Royal Society for Public health, Britons are under-sleeping by an hour every night, which equates to a whole night’s sleep over the course of the week.

While a lack of sleep may seem relatively harmless, the cost of ongoing sleepless nights has been linked to cardiovascular complications.

Fortunately, making simple lifestyle tweaks can encourage a help the body shut down, keeping the risks at bay.

Fresh clean bed linen makes sleep more inviting

Rob Hobson, Healthspan

According to Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, there seven ways to promote good sleep.

Sleep hygiene

“You can help to promote good sleep by adopting some basic hygiene practices such as keeping your bedroom uncluttered, temperature cool and mattress comfortable,” explained Hobson.

Fresh clean bed linen also makes sleep more inviting, he said

Hobson advised shunning digital distractions to create more conducive conditions for sleep too. As he explained, the blue light electronic equipment emits interrupt the production of melatonin, which controls the sleep cycle.

Avoid stimulants before bedtime

“This may seem obvious but if you’re sensitive to stimulants such as caffeine then the effect could linger for many hours after consuming,” said Hobson.

To reduce the risks posed by caffeine, people may want to avoid drinking coffee after midday, he advised.

Sleep friendly alternatives such as herbal teas, which contain ingredients such as valerian, hops, passion flower, chamomile and lavender, have been proven to help relax the body and encourage sleep, he added.

Watch the booze

“Alcohol may have a relaxing and soporific effect, but even in small amounts it can lead to fragmented sleep as it also impairs REM, which is a restorative part of the sleep cycle,” warned Hobson.

The dehydrating effect of sleep can also play havoc to a good night’s sleep, causing people to wake up in the night, which will disrupt their sleeping pattern he explained.

Find out other ways alcohol can disrupt a person’s sleeping pattern.

Encourage sleep hormones

“Amino acids make up proteins and one in particular called tryptophan is required by the brain to make melatonin,” said Hobson.

Foods rich in tryptophan include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Tofu
  • Dairy foods
  • Bananas.

“To get the most out of tryptophan you should team it with carbohydrate foods such as bread, rice or pasta as these help with the uptake of this amino acid into the brain,” advised Hobson.

He recommended including porridge with milk or a turkey sandwich. Tryptophan is also available as a supplement, which is often used to help promote sleep.

Eat plenty of foods rich in magnesium and calcium

According to Hobson, magnesium and calcium is associated with sleep and research has suggested how a lack of magnesium and calcium may be linked to poor sleep.

Low intakes of magnesium have been shown to may make it harder to stay asleep.

Calcium helps the brain to use tryptophan to make melatonin and like magnesium, low levels have been shown to impact on sleep quality.

“Magnesium has a relaxing effect on the body and can be found in foods such as green vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains,” he said.

Calcium rich foods include dairy products, dark green vegetables, pulses and fortified plant drinks.


Oily fish

Oily fish include salmon, mackerel and trout, which are rich in vitamin B6, noted Hobson.

He said: “This nutrient is also required by the body to make melatonin.

“Most of us get enough of this nutrient from our diet as it is also found in many other foods including nuts, seeds, bananas and avocados.

“However, stress can easily deplete the body for this nutrient as well as making it difficult to get to sleep.”

Watch what you eat before bedtime

Eating too close to bedtime may encourage indigestion, especially in those susceptible to heartburn and reflux, explained Hobson.

“These conditions are also encouraged by the type of foods you eat so avoid eating anything too heavy by opting for something like lean proteins with wholegrains and vegetables,” he advised.

Spicy food can also spell trouble, warned Hobson.

“If you suffer from heartburn or reflux then sleeping on your left and side has been shown to help,” he added.

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