10 April 2008

Eating Your Way to A Great Nights Sleep - Part 1

Earlier this week I talked about how sleeping a good quality sleep could actually help you to lose weight.

So how do you make sure you sleep well and for the right length of time? You are only as good and as effective as the quality of your sleep. In essence, You are what you snooze.

And making sure you get a good night's sleep begins from the moment you wake up in the morning. Everything you eat and drink that day will have an effect on your sleep patterns later and so managing your energy and keeping your system steady is crucial. Here are some great food tips to help you gear up for a big sleep.

Wake up at a regular time and start the day with a glass of water or a cup of warm water with lemon. This is the beginning of a well-hydrated day. Proper hydration prevents irritability and leads to eating well so this is an easy way to get your day off to a great start. Think about this everyday - the first thing you consume each day sets the tone for the rest of the day - make it a good one.

Breakfast on porridge / oatmeal, muesli or fruit and yoghurt. Oats in porridge or muesli release energy slowly which keeps you calm throughout the morning. Fruit can release sugars into the bloodstream quickly but combining them with a protein such as yoghurt slows down the digestion of your breakfast. Avoid sugary cereals which cause a quick rise in blood sugar followed by a quick drop which leaves you craving more sugar as this pattern will then repeat itself throughout the day. Climbing aboard this sugar rollercoaster leaves you feeling moody, running on adrenalin and makes it tough to wind down at the end of the day.

Drinking caffeine is like taking a quick injection of stress hormones. Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks should be kept to a minimum and for most people, cutting back here isn’t too much of a problem. Usually, you enjoy the first, the second is never quite as good and the third actually isn’t that satisfying at all. Focus on quality rather than the quantity with your caffeine intake and you won’t feel deprived. Then, when you’ve had your fix, switch to herbal teas instead. I drink Rooibos (Redbush) tea. It has no caffeine at all, tastes great and leaves you feeling calm and focused.

Your morning snack can be pineapple, kiwi or banana with sesame seeds, peanuts, walnuts or pecan nuts. These are all high in serotonin which helps to regulate frustration, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep and appetite. Sesame seeds are a particularly good source of zinc which is an essential component of an effective immune system which is vital for dealing well with stressful situations. Keep a small bag of these on your desk at work so you remember to have a handful a day.

Lunch should be salad-based as the leaves help to calm the nerves. Adding fish or turkey provides you with a helping of Tryptophan – an essential amino acid that increases brain levels of serotonin to keep you calm.

At this stage, you’re well into your day feeling calm, focused, effective and energised. You've grazed well throughout the morning and restricted your caffeine intake - so far, everything is on track for a calm day and great sleep at the end. Try it and let me know if it doesn't make you feel focused and more alert.

Stay tuned to find out how to tackle the rest of the day...

Photograph by POSITiv (Flickr)

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