To sleep more soundly, turn off Trevor Noah, hit the sack earlier, avoid blue screens and… Eat before bed? Yes, it goes against every old wives’ tale (and conventional wisdom), but research reveals that night-time nibbling can help you sleep better. Strategic night-time nibbling, that is – or what we at WH have dubbed “sleepy snacks” (cute, huh?).
“There are specific nutrients that may help you fall asleep and rest more soundly all night long, especially if you don’t always eat well during the day,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Ward. The ground rules: number one, make sure your snack is actually snack-sized, about 630 to 830 kilojoules. Then ditch anything that might upset your stomach; likely offenders include hard-to-digest meat or cheese and heartburn-inducing citrus or spicy food.
Finally, time it an hour or two before you turn in so the nutrients enter your system and start to work. The following tasty titbits tick the right boxes. Some come together in a couple of minutes, while others require merely breaking open a package – and all of them boast high levels of that precious vitamin Zzzz.
1. Pumpkin Seeds
Like nature’s sleeping pills, pumpkin seeds’ magnesium is naturally calming, helping to lull you to dreamland faster and encouraging longer, deeper slumber. The kernels pack the bulk of the magnesium, so stock up on pre-shelled seeds (they’ll be green) for a concentrated hit. A quarter-cup delivers half your daily dose of this tranquillising mineral.
Make it: Sweet & Salty Trail Mix: 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds + 1 tbsp chopped dates + 1 tbsp dried coconut flakes
Key to a decent night’s sleep? The feel-good chemical serotonin. Surprisingly, 80 to 90 percent of it is made in the gut – so eating high-fibre snacks, like popcorn, can fuel the growth of serotonin-producing gut bacteria, says dietician Marjorie Nolan Cohn.
Make it: Honey-Walnut Popcorn: 2 cups air-popped popcorn + 2 tbsp chopped walnuts + 2 tsp honey
The multitasking hormone oestrogen doesn’t just regulate your monthly cycle, it also helps knock you out cold. So could oestrogen-like soy isoflavones mimic that effect? Yes, according to a Nutrition Journal study, which showed that women who downed two or more daily servings of soy were nearly twice as likely to log eight hours of shut-eye than women who didn’t eat any soy.
Make it: Hot Chocolate: 1 tbsp cacao powder + 1 cup heated unsweetened soya milk + 1 tsp honey
It’s got omega- 3s, B vitamins and antioxidants. Turns out, this all-star swimmer might also help you nod off. A Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study found that people who consumed salmon three times a week went to sleep faster and felt more rested the next day than those who ate chicken, pork or beef. That may be due to salmon’s ample vitamin D, which is believed to act on the areas of the brain that help you fall (and stay) asleep.
Make it: Sweet and Crunchy Salmon Roll Up: 50g tinned salmon + . cup diced mango + 2 tbsp chopped cucumber + wholewheat wrap
If you go to bed and immediately start obsessing about your to-do list, wind down with this creamy treat. An emerging body of research shows that probiotic-filled fermented dairy (such as yoghurt or kefir) may induce shut-eye by reducing levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that keeps you wired and awake, staring at the ceiling.
Make it: Honey Nutmeg Yoghurt: 200g plain Greek yoghurt + pinch of nutmeg + 1 tsp honey