Dietary choices and the foods you consume can not only affect your mood and energy levels, but they can also have a knock-on effect on your sleep quality and quantity. Lenherr, expert nutritionist from biohacking platform, bioniq, shared her top six sleep-promoting nutrients.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that contributes to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is a precursor to our sleepy hormone, melatonin.
Melatonin also has the ability to regulate our circadian rhythm and synchronise our sleep-wake cycle with night and day.
Lenherr explained: “Many different protein-containing foods are good sources of tryptophan, such as turkey, chicken and eggs. It can also be found in bananas, sweet potatoes, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds.”
Magnesium is involved in over 300 different bodily processes, one of which is supporting the central nervous system.
In order to fall asleep, the body and brain needs to be relaxed, and magnesium supports this process by activating the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for relaxation and regulating melatonin and neurotransmitters.
Lenherr advised: “You can find magnesium in tofu, beans, almonds, cashews, bananas, avocados, whole grains, and dark chocolate.
“If you’re unsure where to start, why not try making cashew, oat and dark chocolate brownies to up your intake of magnesium.
“But be mindful, as dark chocolate does contain some caffeine which can interfere with sleep, so avoid having sizable portions late at night.”
3. Vitamin D
Research suggests that Vitamin D can help to improve sleep quality, thanks to its role in reducing inflammatory processes in the body and reducing the risk of conditions that can interfere with sleep.
During the winter months, many will suffer with low Vitamin D levels due to the lack of sunlight.
“There are certain foods that contain vitamin D such as egg yolks, fatty fish like tuna, mushrooms, and dairy products, but the amounts are minimal, and it is advised that those who live in colder climates should consider vitamin D supplementation,” said Lenherr.
Potassium is an electrolyte that contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system which regulates bone and muscle health.
When it comes to sleep, low potassium levels are thought to be disruptive, as they can trigger muscle cramps and contractions which impact relaxation.
Potassium can be found in many foods, said Lenherr, such as bananas, sweet potatoes, avocado, tomatoes and oranges, advised Lenherr.
Having healthy levels of B vitamins can help the body produce tryptophan, which is known for supporting sleep.
B6 aids the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, which in turn helps to regulate melatonin levels.
“B6 can be found in poultry, fish, peanuts, bananas and oats. For a delicious breakfast, why not try an overnight peanut butter and banana oats bowl,” said Lenherr.
Calcium is an essential mineral that helps the body to utilise tryptophan, and therefore aids melatonin production.
Studies have actually found a correlation between low levels of calcium and difficulty falling asleep or reduced time spent in deep modes of restorative sleep.
Lenherr explained: “Most people assume that calcium is only richly found in dairy foods, but it can also be found in plant-based foods such as broccoli, tofu, pulses, brown bread and sesame seeds. Whip up a roasted broccoli, butter bean and tahini roast for a sleep soothing dinner.”
She added: “Checking for nutritional deficiencies can rule out any underlying issues that might be affecting your sleep quality and quantity, and will allow you to supplement based on what your body requires.
“A brand I would highly recommend is bioniq BALANCE, a unique granulated supplement formula which is personalised based on your individual blood tests, ensuring that the combination you are taking is exactly what your body needs in order to optimise your health and function at its best.
“With routine testing, bioniq BALANCE can track your progress and amend the formula so that your body is receiving the exact nutrients it requires – taking away all the hassle and guesswork (RRP £99 available to buy from www.bioniq.com).”