Why is sleep so important?
Good sleep quality is crucial for your health. The odd late or sleepless night may not have consequences, but chronic sleep deprivation including sleep apnea, has been linked to weight gain and obesity, heart disease, increased blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and elevated blood sugars (increasing insulin resistance), poor memory and concentration.
From a dietary perspective, lack of sleep can:
Cause Poor dietary choices - when you are tired you have lower motivation and less energy to grocery shop and prepare healthy meals and making good dietary decisions.
Increase your appetite - many studies have found that sleep deprivation increases the production of a hormone ghrelin, the one that causes hunger, and decreases production of leptin, the hormone that suppresses your appetite.
Increase your stress and anxiety levels - which increase food cravings, a time where you are more likely to reach for comfort and junk foods, foods higher in fat, sugar and calories.
Let’s face it, the less sleep you have, the more time you also have to eat!
What can I do to get a better sleep?
Limit or avoid stimulants and depressants like caffeinated beverages and alcohol, especially in the evening.
Try to drink more fluid during the day and a large glass of water or two as soon as you get up. Stay well hydrated. Drink less in the evening if you are getting up to go to the bathroom at night.
Take a small amount of magnesium before bedtime. Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality and help restless-leg syndrome, stress reduction and mood stabilization. Magnesium affects the nervous system which encourages relaxation. A general recommendation between 150 - 350 mg daily. Magnesium may also have a positive effect on blood pressure and arrhythmias.
Timing and types of meals. Avoid eating too close to bedtime. Evening meal - limit spicy foods and high fat foods (especially if you have acid reflux during the night). Getting lots of vegetables, some whole grains, moderate amounts of lean protein can promote a better night's sleep.
Sometimes a small snack in the evening can improve your sleep by boosting your serotonin levels (another hormone). Research suggests that eating carbs along with foods high in tryptophan (protein rich foods including dairy products, salmon, nuts/seeds, legumes, leans chicken and turkey) helps increase your levels of serotonin.
Lastly make sure you have a nice relaxing, cool and comfortable place to sleep. We spend a good portion of our lives in our beds and our environment affects the quality of our sleep.