Did you know that how we sleep and what we eat are two of the most fundamental areas that can impact our health?
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to ensure that we are ready to take on what the next day may have in store. Our energy levels will be increased as well as concentration and our ability to handle stress. Combining this with a diet that supports optimal nutrition makes a powerful combination to ensure we perform at our best on a daily basis. Making the right dietary choices can have a direct impact on sleep.
For a good night’s rest, it is important to
- Avoid consuming food and drinks inhibitors of sleep, these include any food or drinks that contain caffeine or related compounds such as coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and tea. Although the sensitivity to the stimulant effects of caffeine will vary from person to person these substances are best avoided in the evening to encourage the body to wind down and relax before bedtime.
- Alcohol is also another substance that can have sleep-impairing effects. There is a misconception that alcohol relaxes us and induces sleep when, in fact, it could be the cause of a restless night! Alcohol can cause the body to release adrenaline, which is stimulating to the brain. It can also impair the transport of tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.
Another issue to consider is nocturnal hypoglycemia
This is defined as low nighttime blood glucose levels. When a drop in blood glucose occurs, it causes the release of hormones that regulate glucose levels, such as cortisol, glucagon, growth hormone and adrenaline. These hormones stimulate the brain and can cause the body to wake with the signal that it’s time to eat. Nocturnal hypoglycemia, which is a form of dysregulated glucose metabolism can be caused by overconsumption of refined carbohydrates, which is very common in our society today. The best way to avoid this condition is to consume carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index.
Making the right dietary choices can have a huge impact on how we sleep. In this day and age where the demand we put on our bodies to perform outweighs the effort that we take to care for ourselves, the one area we all have the power to improve is how we sleep and eat. Considering that most people will have some sort of sleeping problem or disorder in their lifetime, it is comforting to know that some sleep issues can be avoided simply by making better choices.
Take some time to consider if you could be making better food choices to improve your sleep!
Murray; J Pizzorno, 2002, Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition, Prima Publishing, USA. H. Osiecki, 2001, The Physician’s Handbook of Clinical Nutrition, 6th Edition, Bioconcepts publishing, Australia.