How Can Nutrition Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep?
As a new mother, it’s likely your nighttime rituals are going to change dramatically. Whether you encounter full blown sleep deprivation or end up sleeping strange hours in random patterns, there’s going be to be a shift.
We spoke to Holistic Nutritionist and Life Coach, Pandora Paloma, from ROOTED London for some nutritional tips to help you sleep.
When tiredness sets in, it can often make us desire sugary snacks or heavy ‘comfort’ foods, which is the opposite of what your body needs as nourishment. My most important advice in this period of change, is to go easy on yourself! You’ve just created a new human into the world, so you’re probably not getting half as much sleep as you need or are used to and your body is just trying to catch up on the last 9 months of creation. Here’s my nutritional advice to help you get some good quality snoozing and how to keep your energy up when sleep is not an option.
Eat tryptophan rich foods. Tryptophan is a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin (your happy hormone) and melatonin (your sleep hormone). You can get this from a handful of walnuts, dairy products such as organic goats cheese and organic cows milk (which are also sources of calcium, great for regulating muscle movement) or chickpeas.
Honey helps. The natural sugar found in honey slightly raises insulin levels, allowing tryptophan to enter the brain more easily. Add a spoonful of honey to a camomile tea before bed.
Include plenty of fish in your diet. Most fish - but especially salmon, halibut and tuna - boast vitamin B6, which is needed to produce melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness. The more melatonin your body is able to create, the easier you’ll find it to get to sleep. If you do not eat fish, opt for cherries instead. The tarter, the better, as the fruit is one of the few foods to actually contain melatonin.
Magnesium is your friend. Magnesium supports over 300 mechanisms within the body and among the mineral’s many benefits is its ability to calm the central nervous system. There have been studies to support the use of magnesium supplements for breastfeeding mothers as a way of helping babies sleep. In Dr. Carolyn Dean’s book, The Magnesium Miracle, she recommends that breastfeeding mothers take a 600 mg supplement of the mineral. Increase your magnesium intake naturally in your diet through dark leafy greens, beans, bananas, nuts and seeds. You can also bathe in magnesium flakes and mist the skin with magnesium spray, like this one from Better You.
Avoid heavy meals in the evening. The likelihood is you’ll be woken through the night, and eating too large or heavy a meal has a big impact on your energy levels and quality of sleep. Small, lighter meals eaten more frequently will help sustain your blood sugar balance through the night and help you feel nourished and energised throughout the day.
Get your snack selection on point. If you do need a midnight (or 1am, 2am, 4am…) snack, it’s a good idea to have something wholesome to nibble on. Make a batch of energy balls such as these from ROOTED, skipping the cacao nibs, which can keep you alert. These offer the perfect combination of ingredients to provide a much needed boost, without keeping you awake nor leaving you with an energy slump. Humous and crudités (getting that tryptophan hit) also make a great snack.
Do some gentle exercise. Don’t hate me here BUT a little exercise in the day can help you sleep better at night. I’m not advocating any pressure on new mammas to focus on losing weight gained through pregnancy, I purely support its utility in a quest for better sleep and overall sense of wellbeing. Hey, it took nine months to put the weight on in the first place, it’s not going to disappear immediately! Some light yoga positions such as child's pose (excuse the pun) and supine twists (supra matsyendrasana) are great. Whatever you can squeeze in, do it. Exercise works on the brain and mental state just as much as the physical body. A walk around the block can do wonders - and the baby can come with you.
Say hello to prep. With a new baby in tow, time is a luxury, so meal preparation needs needs to be quick, simple and with minimal effort. Make life as easy as possible by freezing batches of sauces, soups and one-pot meals whenever you can. On weekends, get your partner involved and prep for the week. Slow cookers are great here as you can chuck in some lean meat or fish, vegetables and herbs and leave for the day.
Aim for a variety of low GI foods. By avoiding high carb or sugary food that inevitably will lead to a slump, instead opt for low GI foods that can release energy slowly. For example, meat or fish, with green vegetables and sweet potato instead of pasta, cheese and meat. Think nuts and fruit together over chocolate.
Stay hydrated. Sounds silly but when we are busy rushing around (and feeding someone else) it is easy to forget to drink water ourselves. Dehydration can make you feel sleepy and dizzy, so it is important to sip plenty throughout the day. Add lemon, lime, mint or cucumber to make it more interesting.
Have a cup of lettuce. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties and has a similar effect on the brain to opium. Simmer 3-4 large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add two sprigs of mint and sip just before bed. Strange but true! If this sounds too whacky, have a side salad with dinner instead.
Digital detox. Enhancing the quality of rest you have must be tackled holistically. Aside from what and when you’re eating, adjust your environment. Avoiding screens and phones two hours before bed will help tenfold. The blue light in our smartphones and laptops is detrimental to our body’s production of melatonin, as it tricks us into thinking it is still daytime. Read my piece on the ROOTED journal for more info.
Don’t worry, be happy! Adjusting your mindset is vital. Mind over matter is ever most important here. Your baby is going to wake up in the night so rather than worrying about how tired you are and how to fix it, try to embrace it. Take the pressure off by using deep breathing techniques to keep you calm. Try alternate nostril breathing for a light energy boost. Most importantly, believe in yourself! While you may be tired, groggy and not feeling your most rational, it’s worth it. Think positively, stay upbeat and if you’re struggling alone, find a friend or family member going through the same thing so you can boost one another's morale when it’s needed (and it will be!).
*To be entered into a prize draw to win a FREE Skype Nutrition Session with Pandora, just head over to ROOTED London and sign up to the newsletter using MORIGIVEAWAY. Ends September*
About ROOTED London
The ROOTED LONDON philosophy is simple: Listen to Your Body, Feed your Soul. Using naturopathic nutrition, meditation and healing techniques, life coaching, yoga and self-love as medicine, Pandora created ROOTED as a platform to break free from the noise of 'wellness' and instead a place where creating a positive mindset comes before trends. She specialises in Intuitive Living and Self-love Empowerment to encourage her clients to listen in to what their body and mind needs, and use their intuition to guide them in life.