Nine foods high in sleep-inducing mineral selenium

Lorraine: Daisy Maskell discusses living with insomnia

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It is thought that a third of all Britons experience difficulty sleeping at least once in their lives. In some cases mental factors such as stress and anxiety can be the cause. However, research has shown your diet can also have an effect.

Selenium is a mineral made up of enzymes and proteins.

These work to help create DNA and protect the body against cell damage and infections.

They also help in the reproduction and metabolism of thyroid hormones.

The body only needs a small amount to function and it can be found in several foods.

However, a deficiency can affect your sleeping habits.

One report, published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Ageing, revealed the link between selenium deficiency and obstructive sleep apnoea.

“Compared to controls matched for age, gender, and body mass index, obstructive sleep apnoea patients had lower concentrations of plasma zinc and erythrocyte selenium and higher plasma concentrations of copper and iron,” it says.

“Abnormal concentrations of these trace minerals may reflect oxidative damage and inflammatory response, thus increasing the severity of obstructive sleep apnoea.”

And a separate study, published in Appetite journal, analysed how different dietary nutrients could impact a person’s average length of sleep.

It found those who consumed less selenium slept for shorter periods – less than five hours.

“Regression analyses showed that very short (less than five hour) sleep was associated with decreased intake of all assessed minerals, as was long sleep (with the exception of copper, which was a trend).

“After adjustment for overall diet, only decreased phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc and selenium in the context of very short sleep and decreased phosphorus in the context of long sleep remained significant.”

It adds: “The nutrients consumed less by short sleepers included vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin and selenium.”

Foods high in selenium include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Baked beans
  • Eggs
  • Brazil nuts
  • Milk.

As a trace mineral, the human body does not need excessive amounts of selenium – for the average adult only around 55mcg a day is required.

Whereas pregnant women need between 60 and 70mcg of selenium.

Some signs of selenium deficiency are:

  • Hair loss – in clumps
  • Discoloured nails and skin
  • Itchy scalp or dandruff
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Brain fog
  • Muscle weakness
  • A weak immune system
  • Infertility issues.

According to the NHS some of the most common causes of insomnia are:

  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Noise
  • A room that’s too hot or cold
  • Uncomfortable beds
  • Alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
  • Recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy
  • Jet lag
  • Shift work.

Short-term insomnia is classified as insomnia that lasts less than three months, while long-term insomnia is three or more months.

Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.

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