In this era, sleep rhythms go haywire, it is no longer confined to those who are jet setters and shift workers. Millions of people all over the world do not get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well-being. Many are suffering from lack of sleep due to which they experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities. In general, most healthy adults are built for an average of eight hours of sleep a night.
What you choose to eat throughout the day, in fact, can have an impact on how easy it is for you to fall asleep. Certain nutrients can support restful sleep. So it is important to be aware of sleep friendly foods that lullaby us to sleep.
As children we’ve all been given a glass of warm milk at bed time. Dairy foods contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid. The body cannot make it, so diet must supply tryptophan. It is a precursor in the synthesis of serotonin which is responsible for the feeling of well-being and relaxation. When the level of this brain chemical is high, you're in a better mood, sleep better, and have a higher pain tolerance. Other tryptophan rich foods include poultry, turkey, cheese, nuts, beans, eggs, yogurt, fish, bananas, oats, honey and milk.
Warm milk can help you get to sleep. It is recommended to combine an ample dose of complex carbohydrate together with a small amount of protein (which contains the amino acid tryptophan) plus some calcium. Calcium helps the brain use Serotonin to make melatonin, a hormone that helps to control your sleep and wake cycles. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.
Carbohydrate-rich foods complement dairy foods by increasing the level of sleep-inducing tryptophan in the blood. Meals high on the glycemic index are ideal since carbohydrate intake may help induce sleep. Protein-rich foods are harder to digest, hence skip the high-protein snack before bedtime. It's best to schedule your dinner atleast four hours prior to bedtime & should incorporate some protein & carbohydrate. Ideal combinations like bowl of cereal/marie biscuits and skim milk, banana & sweet lassi, chapathi sprinkled with sesame seeds (rich in tryptophan) & peanut butter etc can get you snoozing instantly, best had close to bed time.
A little food in your stomach may help you sleep. Keep the snack small (within 200 calories) as high-fat foods not only increase weight, but also disrupt sleep cycles. The digestive system slows down while you sleep, so eating too much or too spicy cuisine can cause GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease, when food or liquid travels backward from the stomach to the esophagus, causing heartburn or a burning sensation in chest). Have a light snack closer to bedtime (about an hour prior) a complex carbohydrate like a piece of whole grain toast with a slice of cheese/ whole-grain cereal with skim milk/nuts & banana. This encourages your brain to produce serotonin, which is the calming hormone.
It's common knowledge that caffeine and alcohol can ruin a good night's sleep if consumed too close to bedtime. Beware of foods containing caffeine, even the less obvious choices such as certain chocolate, cola/soda, tea and decaffeinated coffee, chocolate & even some medications. Even moderate caffeine can cause sleep disturbances. For better sleep, cut all caffeine from your diet after noon each day. Alcohol causes frequent awakenings, less restful sleep & headaches. If you’re consuming alcohol in the evening, balance each drink with a glass a water to dilute the alcohol’s effects. Nicotine is a stimulant, with effects similar to caffeine. Avoid smoking before bedtime or any other time!
Drinking water throughout the day will do wonders for your body, but thwart your urge to drink water before bed as it can disrupt your sleep, which is why all liquids must be had within 90 minutes of bedtime.
Some foods helpful in inducing sleep are:
Salomon: It boosts natural levels of melatonin the sleep-regulating hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Legumes: Beans and other legumes are packed with vitamin Bs, such as B6, B12, and folic acid, all of which help you to regulate your sleep-wake cycles and boost your natural levels of serotonin. Other sources of the B vitamins are alfalfa, peas, beans, soy, and peanuts.
Curd: It is an excellent source of calcium and magnesium, which are sleep-friendly minerals that can help you fall asleep faster and stay in the restorative deep sleep longer.
It is best to expose yourself to light during the day ( sunlight), engage in adequate physical activity regularly(at least half an hour each day), practice good sleep hygiene &
plan a little, to eat well to snooze well !
Published for Stayfit magazine
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