Sleep loss affects one in three people in the UK, with the relentless pace of modern day living often blamed for the struggle to get enough shut eye. Struggling to get enough sleep poses more serious risks than a grouchy mood the next day, however. As the NHS points out, regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy, so it imperative to make sure you get the required amount.
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Making simple dietary tweaks can help to restore the sleep cycle and evidence backs mixing barley grass powder into your drinks.
According to a 2018 review, barley grass powder may promote sleep and help prevent a range of other conditions.
Barley grass powder, which is derived from the leaf of the barley plant is rich in several sleep-promoting compounds, including GABA, calcium, tryptophan, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain, which is responsible for slowing your thinking down and helping you fall asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Compounds such as magnesium have an effect on GABA activity in the brain, inducing sleep, according to the Sleep Doctor.
In addition to barley grass powder, several studies have shown that cherry juice can also promote a good night’s sleep.
The magic ingredient in cherry juice is believed to be tryptophan – an amino acid that’s a precursor to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate when you fall asleep and wake up.
Though all varieties of cherries contain melatonin, the tart varieties are thought to encourage the optimal sleep-inducing effect.
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One study found that tart Montmorency cherries may have up to six times more melatonin than sweet Balaton cherries.
Supporting these findings, another study in 30 participants observed that consuming a cherry-based product twice daily improved nightly rest, decreased the number of nighttime awakenings, and resulted in higher urinary melatonin levels first thing in the morning.
Furthermore, one study noted that drinking two cups (480 ml) of cherry juice each day for two weeks increased total sleep time by 84 minutes and helped treat symptoms of insomnia in adults aged 50 and older.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, turkey is a rich source of tryptophan and popcorn also has a similar effect.
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To reap the full benefits of tryptophan, you should up carbohydrate intake, says the health site.
“Carbs make tryptophan more available to the brain. This is why you are often drowsy after carbohydrate-heavy meals,” explained the health body.
Protein can also aid sleep loss, it said: “This is why the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, like peanut butter on toast.”
How much sleep do I need?
According to the NHS, most people need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less.
It is important to work out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it, and, as a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep, explains the health body.
Sleep loss can be caused by a range of factors and keeping a sleep diary can help to identify the underlying trigger.
As the NHS explains, if you see your GP or a sleep expert they will probably ask you to keep a sleep diary to help them diagnose your sleep problems.
It added: “A sleep diary can also reveal underlying conditions that explain your insomnia, such as stress or medicine.”
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