Earlier this year, I spoke to Marcela Fiuza, a dietician and spokesperson from the British Dietetics Association, about tryptophan – an amino acid found in protein foods – which is thought to promote sleep, and is found in sources such as eggs, poultry, meat, fish and cheese.
Eating more of these may be beneficial – and there are other foods and drinks it is worth avoiding before bed. Caffeine is the most obvious, given that it acts as a stimulant both mentally and physically.
And it’s not just about ditching coffees late at night: the best strategy is to try and avoid caffeine for at least four hours before bedtime.
Giving alcohol a wide berth may also be smart. While booze can actually make you feel a little drowsy, it is also associated with more frequent awakening, nightmares, and a less restful sleep through the night, according to Fliuza, who notes that: “It can also affect melatonin levels and interferes with your circadian rhythm.”
Eating spicy food before bed can also have a negative impact on sleep. A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that when healthy individuals ate a meal with tabasco before bed, they had elevated body temperatures and took longer to fall asleep than when they avoided spicy food.
Keep the room (and your body) temperature cool
Getting too hot can impact your ability to sleep, but taking a lovely warm bath before bed can be a good thing. The natural drop in body temperature you experience later into the evening before you fall asleep promotes the release of melatonin.
Bathing in warm water raises your body temperature slightly, which means you then experience a more dramatic drop, boosting feelings of sleepiness.
Don’t, however, consider vigorous exercise that boosts your body temperature and increases your heart rate late in the evening.
“Exercise increases your core body temperature and that takes a while to come down – it increases you from the inside out,” Margo explains. “But with a bath, it’s the sudden drop that makes a difference and that cools you from the outside in.”