SINGAPORE: Do you toss and turn in bed, unable to sleep? You are not alone.
About four in 10 people, or about 44 per cent of Singaporeans lack sleep on weekdays, according to a study by SingHealth Polyclinics. The study, which was published in the journal Medicine last August, involved 350 people aged between 21 and 80.
Singaporeans don’t fare better on weekends either, with 26 per cent failing to clock enough sleep on Saturdays and Sundays.
Other than putting away your smart devices before bedtime and sipping warm milk, there are other foods and drinks that help insomniacs sleep better. Rick Hay, a nutritionist and lecturer in weight management at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, shares how you can eat and drink your way to better sleep.
GREEN, BLACK AND WHITE TEA
L-theanine, dubbed the relaxation amino acid by Hay, is found in teas such as the green, black and white varieties. “Certain amino acids found in foods can help with sleep by nourishing the nervous system,” said Hay in a Healthista article published on Dec 6.
“L-theanine is an amino acid found to enhance sleep and also help reduce anxiety in a growing number of scientific papers.”
And while tea has caffeine, its jagged, energising effects are reduced by L-theanine. In a 2008 study in Asia Pacific Journal of Nutrition, it was found that the alpha brainwave activity in adults was increased after consuming L-theanine. Alpha waves are brainwaves that promote relaxation, said Hay.
LEMON, LIME AND ORANGE
In sleep-deprived laboratory rats, Vitamin C prevented memory impairment and maintained normal levels of antioxidants in the brain, which usually go down due to the lack of sleep, reported the Brain Research Bulletin in 2015.
The Vitamin C in these citrus fruits isn’t just good for boosting your immune system, it also nourishes the adrenal glands, said Hay. “When you nourish your adrenal glands, the system calms down which can help with the anxiety and stress that can cause insomnia,” he said.
Cinnamon nourishes the nervous system by calming the blood sugar levels, explained Hay. “This is important from an insomnia perspective because often, if you find yourself waking up in the small hours, it could be down to blood sugar spikes that subsequently wake you up as your blood sugar drops,” said Hay.
Besides aiding digestion, ginger is a great overall tonic for the nervous system too, said Hay.
A 2010 study published in the journal Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry found that ginger might bind to the brain’s serotonin receptor, which could have a calming effect on anxiety.
“Serotonin is the brain’s feel good neurotransmitter,” said Hay.