How to improve your quality of sleep

To improve your quality of sleep you need to reassess your sleep hygiene: rituals around sleep time. Often adults need to re-learn how to settle and get the most out of their slumber. Going to bed and waking at a regular time helps train your body clock to get into a rhythm that makes it easy.

Getting 7–9 hours of good-quality sleep is best. Artificial light is probably the most effective suppressant of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. Avoiding computer screens a few hours before bedtime is helpful for sleeping more successfully. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine will also improve your sleep, as will exercising during the day.

What we consume can also help to get a good snooze. Chamomile tea will help you sleep, according to researchers; drinking chamomile is associated with an increase in glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative. Passionflower tea contains high levels of chemicals that act on your nervous system to make you tired.

Tryptophan, abundant in cashew nuts, chickpeas, turkey and walnuts, is a sleep-boosting amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin. Magnesium-rich foods, including green leafy vegies, nuts and seeds, brown rice, fish, beans and lentils, avocados and cocoa, may also help you stay asleep. Research shows that, when the body’s magnesium levels are too low, it’s harder to stay asleep.

Calcium in dairy and green leafy vegies helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture sleep-triggering melatonin. Sunflower seeds, walnuts, tuna, halibut, salmon, turkey and chicken are all high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to make serotonin and melatonin.

Other useful foods for boosting melatonin are pineapples, bananas, oranges and oats. Recent research heralds tart cherries as the optimum food for helping you sleep. Not only do they boost melatonin but the proanthocyanidins in cherries help inhibit an enzyme that degrades tryptophan. Research shows that selenium-rich foods may also help reduce wakefulness at night.

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