Nutritional health expert, Divya Arun writes about the correlation between sleep and health.
Ever thought if your sleep really mattered to you?
Most of the time, sleep is something that is easily foregone or pushed back to our ‘Later –to- Do’ list. In the course of our busy lives, in between running a family and showing up at the workplace in time, we find it hard to get the desired hours of sleep our body really demands.
Sleep forms one of the keystones of a healthy lifestyle, the others being good nutrition matching physical activity. All these factors essentially contribute to healthy functioning of our human body and thus to our longevity!
Are you getting Quality Sleep?
Sleep Quality leans on factors like sleep duration, number of times you wake up in between sleep and a feeling of ‘restfulness’ and the depth of your sleep. Quality sleep varies from individual to individual. A study carried out by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2008 came out with
the finding that tiredness upon waking and throughout the day were consistently associated with sleep quality judgements (Journal of SLEEP, 2008). Lack of quality sleep, however, tells upon your appetite, dietary pattern and weight management goals. Sleep deprivation can lead to metabolic conditions and a higher risk for Alzheimer’s, Hypertension, heart disease, Diabetes, Obesity and Stroke, in the long run.
The Sleep -Diet Link
A good night’s sleep is the best food for the brain. Sleep comes handy when you follow uniform meal timings and a nutritious approach towards your food selection during the day.
Lack of quality sleep affects the production of hormones associated with hunger -ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin signals the brain that we are hungry and that ‘it is time to eat’ whereas leptin signals the brain ‘when you are full’.
Insufficient sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin and leptin that, in turn, leads to overeating and weight gain. Sleep deprivation also affects the production of insulin, a hormone that aids cells to take in glucose and fat to be used for the body’s energy needs, resulting in weight gain.
Dietary tips for better sleep:
Listen to your GI (gastrointestinal) tract!
Identify foods that trigger/irritate your intestines when consumed. For e.g., if you are suffering from gluten intolerance, take care to avoid wheat products from your diet.
Go low on alcohol and caffeine!
Restrict your alcohol and coffee intake to 1-2 cups a day; take it before late evenings. Both, if taken in excess, hinder the normal sleep cycle.
NO to sugary snacks and aerated drinks!
Sweets, pastas and aerated beverages are foods that prevent you from getting the wonderful sleep you deserve!
Complex carbohydrates are IN!
Try to include more whole grain and fibre-rich versions of bread and crackers in your late night meal. These foods keep your serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter with a sleep
regulation role) in check and thus promotes sleep.
Eat your fish!
Include lean proteins like low-fat cheese, chicken (without skin) and fish (anchovies, salmon) in your daily diet. Do not go at night for deep-fried/high- fat versions, which take more time to digest keeping you awake.
Go for your B vitamins!
Poultry, turkey, fish and fruit like bananas are pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 rich. If they are added to your diet, they help you sleep faster. Niacin (Vitamin B3), found in beets, peanuts
and poultry, also aids your going to sleep by improving the sleep duration.
Drink your milk!
A glass of warm milk at bed time sets a soothing tone to your sleep. The calcium and magnesium content of milk act as sleep inducers. Two to three servings of low fat/non-fat
milk a day in your diet would suffice.
Water your system!
Water keeps our system hydrated, helps burn calories and keeps the brain functioning at its peak while you are asleep. Drinking 2-2.5 litres of water, spaced throughout the day, can
help you meet your daily fluid needs and thus prevent you from daytime fatigue and dehydration. Before bedtime, DO drink a glass of water to stay hydrated throughout the
Aim for smaller portions with variety
Bring in more variety onto your plate by adding different nutrient sources of foods and also by experimenting with ways of healthy cooking. Avoid stuffing yourself with heavier meals, especially before bedtime.
Other factors influencing sleep
Exercise-Individuals who follow regular workouts are in a better mood and feel less stressed during the day both at workplace and at school. They usually obtain quality sleep at night. Developing a good exercise routine also helps us fight many sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia
(sleeplessness) to a better extent.
Sunlight-Waking up to the sun’s rays has its advantages. The natural light helps set in mental alertness and also keeps your body’s internal biological clock humming smoothly. Studies show an adverse association between lack of good sleep quality and exposure to artificial lights inside workplaces/homes, particularly during late evenings.
Stress-Stress and sleep go hand in hand. In order to minimize your stress levels, you require sound sleep. When you overthink and become anxious at night about the next day’s
plans, you are disrupting your sleep. Adopt some short breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to keep your stress levels well within control.
Let’s sum it up with two golden tips for sleep that all of you would certainly cheer for!
Make your bedtime a priority just like you plan any other daily activity. It is important for you to get into a ‘Sleep Mode’ well before you sleep. Keep away your laptops, cell phones and distracting light sources, which may keep your brain active for long before you get into your ‘Sleep Mode’!
Keep those emotional conversations out of your bedroom. Create thus a peaceful, dark and relaxing environment in your bedroom before you sleep.
Now rush to get some quality sleep!