A gut-friendly, Mediterranean-style diet, rich in foods that support and encourage healthy bacteria, could be the answer to sleeplessness. The pioneer of the 5:2 diet, Dr Michael Mosley, has a new plan to get you snoozing like a baby.
We have long known that the classic Mediterranean diet is great for your health, but studies now show that a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit, oily fish, beans, pulses and olive oil is also an important weapon in the battle against insomnia.
One likely reason is the diet’s effect on the microbiome – the trillions of microbes that live in our guts. The Mediterranean diet boosts levels of your ‘good’ gut bacteria, and the latest studies show gut bacteria play an important role in deciding whether you sleep fitfully or well.
So I have devised a multifaceted insomnia plan which, for the first time, combines common-sense guidance about sleep hygiene and expert instruction in the powerfully effective technique of ‘sleep restriction’ with dietary advice designed to boost your health. It also enhances the natural power of your gut bacteria to aid sleep.
All next week the Daily Mail will be serialising my latest book, Fast Asleep: How to Get a Really Good Night’s Rest, with four-page pullouts which detail my brilliant four-week insomnia cure. Central to the plan’s success is adopting the principles of the Mediterranean diet – a process made deliciously easy thanks to the recipes created for the book by my wife, the GP and YOU columnist Dr Clare Bailey, working closely with Justine Pattison, one of the UK’s leading healthy-eating recipe writers.
These recipes are packed with anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants which will boost your health and mood to aid good sleep. It’s also a perfect diet for your microbiome – microbes which are known to produce important sleep-inducing brain chemicals.
Research shows that people with the most diverse microbiomes have the best-quality sleep. And the good news is you can swiftly alter the mix of microbes that live in your gut by changing what you eat. By avoiding sugar and junk food you can starve out ‘bad’ bacteria, and by filling your plate with delicious vegetables, pulses and wholegrains you will create the best possible environment for ‘good’ bacteria to thrive.
Oily fish (such as mackerel and salmon), nuts and seeds will boost your intake of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but you can further enhance the snooze-inducing power of your gut bacteria by eating prebiotic foods which contain non-digestible plant fibre that acts like fertiliser to encourage growth of the ‘good’ bacteria. You’ll get an extra boost of prebiotic fibre in the oats, onion, leeks, chicory and pulses in these recipes and you can help repopulate your microbiome with fermented probiotic foods such as kimchi and pickled onions.
Michael Mosley sleep recipes: A gut-friendly, Mediterranean-style diet
A lovely, exotic, Korean-inspired noodle soup that includes the benefits of fermented kimchi.
Combining soluble fibre and anti-inflammatory turmeric, this delicately flavoured dish goes with almost anything.
Omega-3 from the oily fish, lots of lovely fibre, as well as nutrient-rich fermented crème fraîche. All you need to soothe you to sleep.
There is lots of glorious fibre in this shepherd’s pie, thanks to all the vegetables, lentils and beans. Good, sleep-inducing comfort food. Serve with freshly cooked leafy greens.
An easy, all-in-one, gut-friendly dish. Serve with a crisp green salad.
A simple, creamy fish pie with lots of flavour and a crispy topping – comfort food rich in omega-3.
This is a favourite with me and my wife. Juicy, sweet and salty pink onion rings bring crunch and flavour to almost any savoury meal. Technically, they are fermented rather than pickled in vinegar, which means they taste better, as well as enhancing your microbiome.
A tangy and filling salad. The tasty black beans are not only a boost of fibre but also add a generous hit of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and B vitamins, including folate.
These meatballs are beautifully complemented by the aubergine, with its antioxidants for reducing inflammation in the body and brain. Serve with leafy greens or a salad, or small portions of brown rice or bulgur wheat for a more substantial meal.
Chicory roots are one of the best sources of soluble fibre, supporting gut health and, by association, boosting mood. A light, flavoursome dish.
This is a tasty way to up your omega-3 intake.
Luscious dark aubergine is the star of this dish, delivering plenty of fibre and antioxidants to help get your gut into top condition. Some research even suggests that it helps lower blood sugar.
Zinging with orange flavour and remarkably low in sugar, this cake is scrumptious and microbiome friendly. Serve in small squares like a brownie.
Oh, the joy of stumbling into the kitchen and being able to dig straight into this creamy, oaty breakfast pot! It’s also a great way to get a healthy dose of fibre.
Buy the book with a 40 per cent discount
Fast Asleep: How to Get a Really Good Night’s Rest by Michael Mosley is published by Short Books, price £9.99. To order a copy for £5.99 with free p&p until 30 April, go to mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155.