Can the Foods We Eat Contribute to a Better Night’s Sleep?
Studies show that eating foods that are less fibrous, contain more saturated fat and sugar throughout the day results in light and less restorative sleep. Researchers tracked the diet and sleep for a group of healthy adults throughout five nights and found that the food choices during the day indeed affect sleep.
Benefits of Good Night Sleep: Why Is It Important?
Sleep is the most important part of one’s health and well-being as the body repairs, rejuvenates itself, and makes one prepared for another day and the activity associated with wakefulness. Sleep has additional benefits including preventing excess weight gain, heart disease, and prolonged illness duration. When a person is rested, he / she can problem solve and fully use memory capacity, whereas if one is not rested, his / her brain function will not be at full capacity. After a full sleep cycle, one is filled with the energy to perform various athletic and sports activities. A person can reduce the risks of depression and exposure to the common cold and flu. A well-rested person is able to lead a balanced life and be a well-adjusted person in society.
Problems That Arise With Poor Sleep
The long-term effects of continuous sleep deprivation are real and tangible. Both our short-term and long-term memories are negatively impacted. An individual’s concentration, creativity, and problem-solving skills are affected. Lack of adequate sleep and eating more may also result in type 2 diabetes. Moreover, individuals who do not sleep well routinely are prone to becoming quick-tempered and moody. Poor sleep leads to our body’s immunity system becoming compromised, which we want to avoid at all costs.
How Do Our Bodies Chemically Work With Respect to Sleep?
According to the energy conservation theory, sleep's primary function is to reduce an individual's energy demand and expenditure during part of the day or night. The body secretes a chemical named melatonin—a hormone that induces drowsiness. Melatonin starts to increase in the evening and peaks in the middle of the night, letting us know it is time to sleep. Many biological processes take place during sleep; the brain rejuvenates and the body begins the digestive process to digest the food consumed during the day and generate toxic waste. Nerve cells repair themselves and promote healthy brain function. The body repairs its cells, restores our energy, and releases molecules such as hormones and proteins. All human activity during the time of its activity is linked to a chemical called dopamine. The pineal gland regulates our internal clock, known as our circadian rhythm, by releasing melatonin in response to light. Melatonin is produced in response to a hormone called norepinephrine. Apart from this, amino acids, enzymes, nutrients, and hormones (including tryptophan, gamma-aminobutyric acid [GABA], calcium, pyridoxine, serotonin, potassium, magnesium, histamine, acetylcholine, L-ornithine, folate, antioxidants, vitamins D and B, zinc, and copper) induce good sleep and regulate the sleep cycle.
What Are Some of the Sleep-Promoting Compounds?
Different foods contain differing quantities of sleep-promoting compounds, whereas some exceptions have high concentrations that could potentially stimulate sleep. Hormones such as leptin (satiety signaler) and ghrelin (appetite stimulator) are generated during the sleep process; these hormones are regulated during the deep sleep cycle, and during a poor sleep cycle, their production is disturbed, thus leading to other health problems.
Fruits & Veggies that promote sleep include the following:
Cherries, especially sour cherries contain melatonin, control your body’s internal clock, lower body temperature, and induce drowsiness. Two 1 oz. glasses of tart cherry juice can increase sleep time by 40 minutes more on average and sleep efficiency by 6%.
Bananas are a quick and easy snack full of powerful nutrients, including vitamin B6. Potassium and magnesium help the body’s muscles to relax, and the relaxed state prolongs deep sleep. Consuming bananas also helps to reduce high blood pressure. Bananas contain the chemical—amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin and melatonin.
Pineapples contain 75% more aMT6-s than bananas or oranges; this measures the amount of melatonin circulating in the body and aids digestion in the body. Additionally, pineapples contain immunity-boosting antioxidants; their enzymes can ease digestion. Consumption of pineapples has multiple benefits, including, reduce the risk of cancer, suppress inflammation, ease symptoms of arthritis, and speed recovery after surgery or strenuous exercise.
Oranges, in addition to melatonin, contain vitamin B, which help with sleep in several ways, viz. by reducing anxiety and depression, improving the regularity of the sleep/wake cycle, and helping the body process hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA (the chief sleep-promoting neurotransmitter in the brain).
Avocados contain high quantities of magnesium—the sleep mineral that helps a person sleep and regulates the sleep cycle. Magnesium is a chemical that is a natural relaxant that reduces the production of adrenaline. Resultantly, you wake up feeling more refreshed from a good night’s sleep. Avocados are incredibly nutritious and contain more potassium than bananas. Avocado produces monounsaturated fatty acids and fiber that help in preventing heart disease and provides roughage. Eating avocados lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Kale has abundant quantities of calcium, which aids one’s brain to use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin; it is an all-around healthy vegetable. Other dark leafy vegetables including collards, spinach, and broccoli fall in the same category. Other health benefits include vitamin A (important for eye and bone health and a strong immune system), vitamin C (aids in cold and chronic disease prevention), and vitamin K (good for blood clotting and bone-building), folate—a vitamin B that's key for brain development, and alpha-linolenic acid—an omega-3 fatty acid.
As a salad vegetable, there is none superior to lettuce. Lettuce has lactucarium—a milky secretion that has sedative properties and is commonly referred to as lettuce opium. There are several lettuce varieties, including garden lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and especially wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa). Lettuce and other leafy vegetables also aid in providing roughage and fiber that helps in easy motility.
Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant, phytonutrient lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits; these include reduced risk of heart disease and cancer and promoting sleep cycles. Lycopene colors tomatoes bright red and protects them from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays; it has the same effect on human body cells. Tomatoes also have potassium, vitamins B, C, E, and K, potassium, folate, and other nutrients.
Holy basil—a medicinal plant known for its qualities of promoting health and wellness—is also known for its sleep-inducing properties. Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is used in holistic treatments for the body and calming the mind, helps lower cortisol levels, and treats depression. Ayurveda and Vedic religions consider Tulsi as a sacred plant used in medicine, but Thai cuisine uses this as a common herb, named kaphrao. Apart from Thai dishes, it is also used to make tea by steeping it in hot water. Drinking this tea before bedtime will promote a state of calm and make us drowsy.
Alpha-carotene, which induces better sleep cycles, is found in abundance in carrots. Carrots and pumpkins are potent sources of the powerful carotenoid.
Spinach is filled with nutrients that help promote overall health and well-being. It contains tryptophan and a large quantity of vitamin B6, which promotes better sleep.