Whether because of natural changes in our health or side effects of medication, many of us find it more difficult to get to sleep as we age. But there are some simple things you can do to drift off more easily – including enjoying a relaxing meal.

To get to sleep, our bodies rely on a hormone called melatonin, which controls our sleeping and waking cycles. For example, during daylight hours, our body clock cuts down how much melatonin we produce to help us feel awake. Production of melatonin increases into the evening as we prepare to rest, and reaches its highest levels at night to keep us asleep until morning.

As we get older, we stop naturally producing all the melatonin we need. Which means many older people find they sleep far more lightly than when they were younger, or are more sensitive to light levels and wake up earlier. But despite what many people say, we do actually need roughly the same amount of sleep in later life as younger adults, to make sure the body has time to rest and repair itself.

If you do find it difficult to drop off into a deep sleep, making some small changes to your evening meal can give your body a melatonin boost that will help you feel drowsy.

Here are some key foods containing naturally occurring substances that can encourage a better night’s sleep:

Oily fish

Vitamin B12 in oily fish increases levels of melatonin and serotonin which help you sleep. Tuna and mackerel also contain vitamin B3 (Niacin), which improves the quality of REM sleep (when dreaming occurs) and helps us feel properly rested. Why not treat yourself to our tasty oak smoked Kipper Fillets or Salmon & Broccoli Bake for your evening meal.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are packed with vitamin D which supports the part of our brains that regulates sleep cycles. In fact, a deficiency of vitamin D can cause insomnia. Try our Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto or Mushroom Ravioli

Dairy products and green veg

Calcium is in cheese, butter, cream, milk and vegetables such as spinach and kale. Along with other benefits, it regulates muscle movement (helping prevent restless leg syndrome) and produces sleep-triggering melatonin. Our Macaroni Cheese and Creamed Spinach as a side dish are both rich in calcium. Clotted Cream & Strawberry Ice Cream provides the perfect pudding to awaken the taste buds, while encouraging the body to rest.

Nuts

Almonds contain tryptophan and magnesium, an important mineral that helps you stay asleep. Walnuts have a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin. A small handful of nuts before bed could help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Or try our Nut & Mushroom Roast with almond-topped Bakewell Tart for dessert.

Simple carbohydrates

Oats, white rice and the sugars in wholegrains all have a high glycemic index and naturally raise insulin levels in the body. Insulin allows tryptophan into the brain more easily, stimulating the production of melatonin.

You could also treat yourself to a sweet dessert or a couple of squares of chocolate a few hours before bed. Rice Pudding is sweet and warming, helping you relax.

Soothing drinks

Chamomile tea causes an increase in glycine which soothes nerves and muscles. You could also try making a tea with lettuce leaves – as lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties. Fruit and herbal infusions are usually caffeine-free, so won’t keep you awake like normal tea or coffee.

We hope these tips help you sleep better from now on. And what better way to settle down for the night than with our brochure? As you browse through our full range of home delivered frozen ready meals you’ll see that many of the dishes contain the sleep-enhancing ingredients we’ve mentioned here.