We all lead busy lifestyles where sleep is often pushed to the backburner. This could be because of travel, stress, shift work, busy schedules and the overconsumption of things like caffeine. Sleep deprivation is becoming increasingly common which means that more people are sleeping only a few hours each night, getting poor quality of sleep or a hybrid of the two. Sleep deprivation can lead to a host of health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes and weight gain. Luckily for us, a good night’s sleep can certainly be managed through a variety of healthy sleep habits known as ‘sleep hygiene’. Amongst various practices, certain dietary habits can help transform restlessness into a restful slumber. We caught up with Nutrition Specialist Khushboo Thadani of KWeigh to find out how diet and sleep can intersect to give you a more restful 40 winks.
Bananas: Although generally considered an energy-boosting food, bananas are rich in both magnesium and potassium. While magnesium helps prevent sleep disturbances, both magnesium and potassium work together to relax muscles.
Melatonin-rich foods: Often referred to as ‘nature’s sleeping pill’, melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. While melatonin is available in supplement form, foods which help increase the body’s natural melatonin production include tart cherry juice, oranges, rice, tomatoes, flaxseeds, barley and sweet corn.
Eggs: The body converts the amino acid tryptophan into the hormones serotonin and melatonin, both of which have a relaxing and sleep-inducing effect. Along with eggs, tryptophan is found in many high-protein foods including turkey breast, tofu, chicken breast, lentils and fish.
Yogurt: Although old wives’ tales suggest that warm milk can contribute to drowsiness at night, the truth is that any dairy product (e.g. yogurt and cheese) can help due to the calcium content. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to synthesize sleep-triggering melatonin. Additionally, calcium helps regulate muscle movements and prevent muscle spasms and cramping.
Herbal teas: While coffee and caffeinated teas should be consumed in limited quantities within the earlier part of the day, sipping on herbal varieties of tea (e.g. chamomile) before bedtime can actually help promote restful sleep. Various studies reveal that drinking tea is associated with an increase of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative.
Wholemeal toast: Although eating carbohydrates at night has gained a bad reputation over the years, eating too few can actually hamper sleep quality. Carbohydrate-rich foods like sweet potatoes and oatmeal cause a spike in blood sugar levels, triggering the body’s production of insulin to bring them back down. This explains why you often feel a burst of energy in the first few minutes after eating carbs, then a ‘crash’ of tiredness. At night, this sleepiness can be very useful, making toast the perfect midnight snack.
Foods rich in vitamin B3 & B6 like soya beans, fish, poultry, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms. B vitamins help improve adrenal gland functioning. When the adrenal glands don’t function properly, it can cause insomnia or wakefulness. Whereas vitamin B3 increases REM sleep, which can decrease the number of times you wake up at night, vitamin B6 supports serotonin production.
Oranges are renowned for their vitamin C content. Various studies report that lack of vitamin C may cause shorter and nonrestorative sleep, especially given that this nutrient acts as a natural tranquilizer.