Nutritionist Libby Limon and sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley, share dietary advice on how to improve quality of sleep, helping you wake up rested and ready.
A good night’s sleep is hard to come by. Whilst statistics focus on the hours we spend sleeping, medical professionals tell us that it is more important to focus on the quality of sleep we are getting. In order to wind down, we are advised to avoid backlit phone screens, email-pings that keep us wired but, we rarely speak about how diet can help to gently regulate our sleep.
In conversation with nutritionist Libby Limon and sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley, we take a look at the small dietary changes that help to reduce stress and help us regain control over our sleeping patterns.
“Magnesium is probably one of the most important minerals when it comes to sleep,” says Libby. Recognised for its ability to relieve symptoms of insomnia, magnesium decreases stress hormone cortisol and relaxes your muscles to make it easier to slip into a slumber.
In the UK, the daily recommended intake of magnesium is 270 mg a day for women and 300mg for men. But, research has suggested that 75-90% of the population fail to consume anywhere near that amount. This is greatly down to the fact that, while magnesium occurs naturally in many foods, it is notoriously difficult to absorb. So, alongside a diet that accommodates the foods listed below, Libby also recommends that those with sleep issues take a magnesium supplement.
Dark Chocolate: 64mg per 28g serving
Almonds: 80mg per 28g serving
Boiled Spinach: 79mg per 100g
Avocado: 58mg per avocado
“eating protein rich-foods…is advised to promote sleep”
Protein-rich foods are good for the production of serotonin, which many of us know as the ‘happy hormone’. While it tends to be credited with keeping us upbeat and alert throughout the day, serotonin also plays an important role in the sleep/wake cycle. Libby explains, “serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin, so eating protein rich-foods – which are good for serotonin production – is advised to promote sleep”.
Chicken Breast: 53g per roasted breast
Soybeans: 36g per 100g
Cottage Cheese: 11g per 100g
Eggs: 6g per egg
DR. Neil Stanley
“Levels of melatonin vary throughout the day which helps regulate circadian rhythms in the body”
Melatonin a.k.a the ‘sleep hormone’ is a natural hormone most commonly associated with the sleep/wake cycle. “Levels of melatonin vary throughout the day (and night) which helps regulate circadian rhythms in the body,” explains Dr Stanley, “melatonin levels are high at night and low during the day.”
The natural production of melatonin is triggered by darkness and suppressed by light. But, as many of us indulge in the habit of using brightly lit phones, laptops and devices before bedtime, our body’s production of melatonin gets disrupted. Studies have shown that one way of curtailing this (aside from limiting our screen time) involves consuming foods with naturally occurring high levels of the sleep hormone.
Based in London, Libby Limon is a nutritionist and yoga teacher who believes in creating optimal health through a diet and lifestyle that fits around your life.
Dr Neil Stanley is an independent sleep therapist who has been involved in sleep research for more than 36 years. Among numerous academic accolades, Stanley is the co-author of the Guidelines for Sleep Medicine Education in Europe as well as the Guidelines for Standard procedures for Adult Sleep Medicine.