How to sleep: The best and worst Christmas treats for getting a good night’s sleep

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If you’d like to know what Christmas treats are disrupting your sleep, and those that make you drift off into dreamland, Dr Verena Senn has the answers. This way, you can tailor your grazing, hearty meals and drinks to benefit you the most.

With a PhD in neurobiology, from Ernst Struengmann Research Institute, in Germany, and nearly 15 years in research on the brain, sleep patterns and psychological behaviour, Dr Verena Senn knows what she’s talking about.

When it comes to Christmas, overindulgence tends to be the way, but Dr Senn advises against food comas.

“Sorry to be a Scrooge,” she says, “Food comas may feel a part of the festive season, but it spells a disaster for your digestive system.

“In fact, food comas are known to cause a myriad of health issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn and indigestion.”

And although you may feel sleepy after a hearty Christmas feast, grazing on treats throughout the day “is likely to lead to less restorative sleep”.

This means it shouldn’t be a surprise if you keep waking up during the night.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” she cheers. “Simply hold off from falling asleep after eating for at least two hours.”

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This helps to aid digestion, decreasing the chances of an interrupted slumber.

During the festive period it’s tradition to eat turkey – and it’s one not to be missed,

“The protein-rich bird contains the amino acid tryptophan,” explained Dr Senn.

“Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin – the sleep-inducing hormones” – helping you doze off into a well-needed rest.

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“Cheeseboard lovers will be pleased to know that cheddar cheese has high levels of tryptophan,” she added.

“The crackers you eat it on can help too,” she beamed. “Eating crackers, stuffing, potatoes and Yorkshire Pudding causes your body to release extra insulin to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.

“This extra insulin boost causes an increased intake of most amino acids into your system, leaving you lethargic… but don’t overdo it,” she warns.

Be aware that anyone suffering from diabetes will benefit from carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index, such as nuts, rather than a low glycemic index.

If you like to start Christmas Day with a drink in hand, think twice.

Dr Senn recognises the sedative qualities in a glass or two of wine (as it contains melatonin), but it can “disrupt your sleep cycle and sleep quality”.

“After falling asleep fast, chances are high that you wake up later in the night and struggle to get back to sleep.” Said Dr Senn.

“Also, alcohol disrupts REM sleep, in particular, the sleep stage associated with vivid dreams.

“This leads to less dream-like experiences and inhibits its benefits for emotional processing during REM sleep.

“And with that, the benefits of that lovely melatonin contained in wine are completely erased by the effects of the alcohol.”

As well as ensuring your eating right this festive period, a good slumber isn’t going to happen if you don’t sleep on a comfy mattress.

As an in-house Sleep Expert for Emma, Dr Senn recommends their award-winning mattresses to lay your head down on this festive season.

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