Flax seeds have been cultivated for more than 5000 years, but this ancient grain is fascinating not because of its longevity but due to its remarkable health benefits. Eating flax seeds before bed can directly help you sleep, boost your immune system, and possibly lose weight. We explain how in this article.
Flax seeds before bed: The surprising sleep aid
Packed with protein, fiber, and with exceptional health benefits (which we cover in the next section), flax seeds are great to eat before bed due to their ability to act as a natural sleep aid.
That’s because flax seeds are rich in tryptophan – an essential amino acid that we don’t produce naturally, and which we must obtain through diet. Interestingly, supplementing with this amino acid appears to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep as tryptophan helps your body produce an important sleep hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and is so important to our sleep health that often individuals who are struggling to sleep – or have been diagnosed with insomnia – are prescribed melatonin. Therefore eating a handful of flax seeds before bed could be a great way to top up your natural melatonin levels at the right time.
Tryptophan also helps your body produce serotonin – a hormone that helps with our mood, well-being and happiness. Serotonin has a role to play in inducing sleep, and is needed in order for the body to produce that all-important sleep hormone – melatonin!
It doesn’t end there either. An ounce of flax seeds contains around 20-25% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium. Why’s that notable? Well supplementing with magnesium has been shown to help relieve symptoms of insomnia and improve sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset. It’s also been shown to reduce anxiety – one of the leading causes of insomnia.
Eating flax seeds before bed could help sleep quality and onset due to the presence of tryptophan – which helps the body produce the important sleep hormone melatonin – and magnesium. All of which have been shown to have a positive effect on sleep quality.
Flax seeds before bed: Any other HEALTH benefits?
This remarkable seed is also an anti-inflammatory, loaded with antioxidants, is full of fiber, protein and much of the oil in flax seeds is omega-3 fatty acids. All are crucial to keeping your health in check.
In particular, flax seeds are packed with α-Linolenic acid – an omega-3 fatty acid – that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Why is that important? Well many major diseases like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s are often linked to chronic inflammation. Therefore incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – like flax seeds or kiwi – is a no-brainer.
Medical research has backed up the remarkable properties of flax seeds too. Regular consumption was seen by one study to reduce inflammation in obese patients, while anther concluded that ‘flax seed supplementation in diet revealed potential health benefits in situations like cardiovascular risk, certain types of cancers and other metabolic disorders.’
Flax seeds are also packed with antioxidants which means they have the potential to protect your cells and tissue from damage. Antioxidants are also important for sleep as they appear to have a direct effect on sleep quality, as they support the immune system and help promote restfulness at night.
Antioxidant foods also help protect your body and can even reverse damage that has been done by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress comes about when there’s an imbalance between free radical molecules (which can cause harm) and antioxidants – that imbalance then causes illness and tissue damage. The result can be the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and many others. Therefore eating antioxidant foods – like flax seeds or garlic – should be a priority.
The science has been backed up too. Research has shown that consumption of flax seeds reduces the risks associated with cardiac and coronary disease and with cancer. Another concluded that eating flax seeds was beneficial for patients with diabetes and for gastro-intestinal health, whist another suggested that supplementing with flax seeds could help with weight loss – so eating flax seeds before bed may help you lose weight and fall asleep.
Flax seeds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, and are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Because of that, several studies have shown flax seeds to have a positive effect on health, protect against disease, and boost the immune system.
Flax seeds for sleep: Incorporating them into your diet
Flax seeds are cheap and can be found in shops and supermarkets around the world. They can also be eaten in their natural form, and so are easy to incorporate into your diet.
There are many different ways to incorporate flax seeds into your diet too. You can use them as a topping for porridge, yoghurt or muesli, baked into bread, sprinkled on the top of rice, or as part of a smoothie.
Flax seeds before bed: What about side effects?
If you don’t have a flax seed allergy then moderate consumption of flax seeds shouldn’t cause any side effects. However due to their high fiber content, eating flax seeds in excess could lead to bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation.
As always, we recommend consulting with your doctor if undertaking a diet change, or if you have concerns about how a specific food may interact with any preexisting conditions or medicines.