Can’t sleep? I suggest you eat…

Are you currently flicking through your phone because you can’t sleep?…

Are you also dreading the morning because you know you’ll feel bloody tired when your alarm goes off?

If you have difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night’s rest you may suffer from ‘hyperarousal’ which means your body revs up towards the evening when it’s meant to be winding down.

What you put into your mouth has a profound affect on how your body operates. So if you are interested in getting some zzz’s without sleeping drugs there are a few things you can easily adjust in your diet:

Feed your body with sleep inducing nutrients

Get the right nutrition to switch off adrenaline neurotransmitters, boost GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid which helps to turn off adrenaline) and restore adequate levels of serotonin (enhances energy/mood) and melatonin (helps regulate the sleep cycle).

Sounds like a lot to take in, but there are some simple actions you can take to assist with this:

  • Stay away from sugar and stimulants (including sugary alcoholic drinks) as these tend to raise the two adrenaline hormones, adrenalin and cortosol. Although alcohol is a relaxant, a couple of hours after drinking it it actually gives you low levels of GABA which then turns on adrenaline. Staying away from grog at night allows the brain chemistry to be balanced to aid sleep. If you must drink, a glass of red wine with food is the best option.
  • Increase seratonin and melatonin to ensure you are at your peak and stimulated during the day, and can then wind down when you’re meant to at night time. Serotonin converts to melatonin to aid a good night’s sleep and a great way to help it do this is by getting a bit of sun. Early morning sunlight is more intense and this can boost your body’s production of melatonin in the evening. So try waking up early and go for a short walk. Waking up in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep is a classic symptom of a deficiency in these brain chemicals. If this sounds like you, you may need to build up 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) which is made up of nutrients folic acid, B6, vitamin C and zinc, and tryptophan.
  • Eat chicken, cheese, tuna, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu, milk, lettuce and oats as they are all high in tryptophan. Some easy meal ideas is to have porridge with sprinkle of almonds/walnuts and honey for breakfast or eggs on toast, chicken or tuna with lettuce sandwich for lunch, snack on a boiled egg or handful of mixed nuts during the day, make a tofu or chicken stirfry with lots of greens (beans, boc choy, broccoli) for dinner.
  • Ensure you are getting adequate magnesium.  Magnesium plays an important role in hydration, muscle relaxation, energy production and, crucially, the deactivation of adrenaline. So if you are deficient you’re likely to see these issues negatively affect your sleep. So get stuck into magnesium rich foods like fish, beans, nuts and seeds, and dark green leafy veg. Read a list of the top 10 ten foods for magnesium intake.
  • Reduce your sugar intake as eating too much sugar can decrease magnesium levels. If you think you couldn’t possibly cut out that evening indulgence of chocolate, cake or tim tams, try some delicious sugar free dessert recipes from my Pinterest Board that pass for the real thing! If you are seriously interested in learning about how removing sugar can positively impact your lifestyle, health and overall wellbeing check out this website:
  • Try some herbal remedies. St John’s Wort, Valerian and Passion Flower are all good sleep formulas and can be easily found at the supermarket, in health food stores or at the chemist.

If all else fails…

A slight change in your diet can help aid a good night's sleep

A slight change in your diet can help aid a good night’s sleep

If you still can’t sleep and you feel that it’s actually your head that’s keeping you awake at night you may never get to sleep unless you deal with what’s going on in there. As scary as it sounds start by taking some baby steps. Write down what is bothering you or chat to someone (it could be work, relationship issues, an argument you had with a family member or feelings of depression or anxiety etc).

If getting it off your chest doesn’t help, you could explore seeing someone a bit more profesh to talk it over. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a good technique to de-stress/make positive changes to thinking patterns that enhance your stress levels.

I was always freaked out about seeing someone to address mental health issues, but last year sucked it up and went to see someone who was very good in helping me to understand my thoughts and not give as much power to the ones I deem unhelpful.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking assistance outside yourself, and if you go to a doctor you can receive a mental health care plan to receive rebates – winning!

Photo “Dreamcatcher” by Serge Bertasius Photography, courtesy of

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