Improper sleep is a very underrated problem in today’s world. Most people ignore rest and consider it a heroic achievement to have slept less. However, a lower sleep count can make your body weak and reduce your life expectancy.
Multiple factors affect sleep. They can be your life choices, the bed you sleep on, and an essential element – the food you eat. We have heard of the expression, “You are what you eat.” This saying truly encapsulates the effects of food in our daily life.
The reason is, however, not always food. For instance, it could be a pre-existing medical condition or a lifestyle habit. For example, people who smoke or have an abnormal sinus condition have irregular breathing. This condition could lead to hampered quality sleep too.
Here, the answer is decongestants and not food-change. But your diet is undoubtedly a significant game-changer. The question is: ‘Is there a correlation between what we eat and how we sleep?’ Let’s find out.
Need For Sleep.
This is a trivial problem with the world that surrounds us. Most people we know do not go to bed; they “pass-out.” This action is the new normal of living. With a digitally-driven world, sleep is just another chore in our lives.
However, sleep must be more than just that. It is the time set for our bodies to relax and reboot, like turning off the internet-modem and letting it reset. When we sleep, our body’s repair mechanism kicks-in. This process allows your body to heal and rejuvenate, preparing you for another day to follow.
Not just the body, even the mind takes some time off and reboots when we sleep. When we sleep, the mind enters a rhythmic pattern that lets you replenish its juices.
For people who battle clinical-sleep loss and insomnia, the use of prescription sleeping pills is a catalyst. For others, it comes down to inaccurate food and habit issues. A small change can cause a ripple effect of benefits.
What Food Keeps You Awake?
Food does not keep you awake per-say, but an excess of a particular food can make it hard for your body to sleep. For example, the higher dosage of sugar, carbohydrates, and processed food will mess with your body clock.
Since these foods are harder to break down in the body, eating them post-sunset will keep your body active and disturb sleep quality. Additionally, having a higher blood-sugar level will bring in fatigue, which further alters the sleep-cycle.
The same effect occurs from higher cabs. Carbs are nothing but complex sugars and cause the same effect on the body. Another apparent cause of sleep disturbance is caffeine. Caffeine in the form of coffees, sodas, or energy drinks is the worst sleep-stopper.
Caffeine in the body reduces in the form of a “half-life.” This means that the average caffeine in the blood reduces by half of the existing capacity every few hours. By this math, if you want to fall asleep at 10 PM, you must stop caffeine after 11 AM.
We often feel sleepy after consuming a heavy meal, and we see this as a good sign. However, after a heavy meal, sleep quality is not the best for your body as you will never achieve deep sleep.
Have you heard of the night-cap? Yes, the few drinks that help you go to sleep. Well, those could also do more harm than good for you. While they illusion a sleep-like-feeling, they are merely making you drowsy. Your brain and body are stimulated all night, leading to low sleep quality.
What Food Helps You Sleep?
Here is the tricky part, just because a meal before bed makes it hard to sleep, does not mean you do not eat. Not eating enough food will wake your body up in the middle of the night. Ensure you eat a few hours before bedtime.
This practice will give your body time to break down the food and prepare you for bed. The ideal dinner should be as balanced as possible. Keep equal qualities of vegetables, grains, and healthy fats. Have a light serving of protein, free of complex-fats, as larger quantities are harder to break down.
Make sure you keep your food-intake around or below 500 calories. Avoid red meat and stick to turkey, chicken, fish, or eggs for dinner. Do not consume too many sugary foods; instead, have fruit or yogurt.
Hydration is another crucial factor. Many people wake up at night to sleep to drink water. This is not a habit; this is an inaccurate behavior. The aim is to be adequately hydrated. Consuming too many fluids before bed will also force you to break your sleep cycle to use the bathroom at night.
You can also have nuts before bed. These are rich in nutrition, digest faster, and provide better blood-stimulation. If you need to snack before bed, you can heave a few fruits, sugar-free green tea, dry fruits, or fresh juice.
Is There An Ideal Diet?
There is unfortunately, no such thing as a ‘tried and tested diet’ that will work for you. You will have to create your meal-plans and see what works.
In an ideal situation, make sure your meals are light, easy to digest, and consumed a few hours before bedtime. This routine will not just give you better sleep but also provide better health in the long-run.
One interesting point to note about food-and-sleep-relationship is that it is not just limited to your dinner but also your whole day’s food habits. The better your diet plans, the less you fight bodily functions, resulting in flawless sleep.
To answer the initial question about whether there is a correlation between what we eat and how we sleep? Yes, there is.
However, sleep disorders are not fully meal-dependent. They can also occur from a careless lifestyle, incorrect sleeping patterns, a surplus of screen-time, and much more. Food is not just one of the factors, but a major one.
The problem with a bad diet is that it does not just affect your sleep, but also your life on the whole. Be mindful of what you eat and battle away half your ailments and disorders.