A third of our lives is spent sleeping. Sleep cannot be set aside as something that is not important since it is a physically unproductive, non-dynamic and dormant activity. In fact, the brain and body are active during sleep. Most of the body’s repair functions begin when the body is at total rest. The efficiency of the brain depends on the optimum amount of sleep the body receives.
Lack of sleep can be due to various reasons, of which the most common are:
- Work shifts
- Screen time – television, mobile phones and other electronic devices
- Medical issues
- Substance abuse
The CDC recommends a minimum of 7 hours of sleep for an adult, though 8 hours is ideal. A good night’s sleep translates into a good day’s routine. A person who has met his sleep requirement is capable of competently performing his duties of the ensuing day, without feeling tired, worn-out and drained. His circadian schedule or body-clock is programmed to function at its best, before signalling that it is time to retire for the day.
There are a number of factors that impact an individual’s sleep pattern, and one of them is diet. We all know that a complete nutritious diet is the key to glowing health and vitality. Since sleep is part of the health cycle, we discuss how diet impacts sleep.
Light and Early Dinner
The proverbial “breakfast like a king and dinner like a beggar” hold good, even to regulate sleep schedule. Too much of food with little or no time to digest is a bad idea. It is preferable to eat really well for breakfast, since the whole day lies ahead. Best dinner options are soup, lentils, chicken, lean meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.
Less Spice, More Fibre
Food that is easy on the stomach and at the same time provide necessary fibre for digestion qualifies for a great dinner. Whole grains like rice, wheat, oats and corn are high on fibre, while fruits like bananas, kiwis and melons are mild on the stomach.
Stack Up Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle by responding to darkness and light. Nuts like pistachios and almonds, warm milk, fish, eggs, goji berries and tart cherries are excellent sources of sleep-inducing melatonin.
Probiotics can help to relieve insomnia and get your sleep cycle back on track. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in certain foods like yoghurt, buttermilk, miso soup and cottage cheese.
For those who exercise regularly, a protein shake for dinner is a great health tip. The milk in the protein shake promotes sleep while the protein goes to work repairing muscle. Including nuts and fruits make it one power-house of a meal.
Less Sugar, More Sleep
“Sweet dreams” was never meant to be the result of a dinner of sugary doughnuts, pastries, fruit-juice, burgers with sauce and coke. In fact, sugar messes with sleep and should never be part of the last meal for the day.
Some studies suggest drinking water before going to bed, while others – the opposite. Drinking water throughout the day is the balance we need to strike in order to stay hydrated. Consumption of water should reduce around dinner time. This avoids the urge to break sleep and empty the bladder.
There are chemicals in our brain that prompt us to get to bed, and caffeine blocks those signals, thus keeping us alert and awake. It is noteworthy that we turn to coffee to keep us awake during the exams. Coffee during dinner time – a definite no.
The drowsiness that alcohol supplies is not to be confused with sleep. Alcohol keeps a person in the lighter regions of sleep, which is why it is possible to wake up feeling extremely tired and sore.
Get Them Young
It is necessary to inculcate a proper sleep schedule from a young age. Fixed times to sleep and arise, proper diet, exercise, refraining from electronic devices and the right amount of room light contribute to excellent sleep. It also avoids the need to invest in therapies and treatments later.