• Mana Bayanzadeh

Why Sleep Is Important For Your Health & 4 Diet Tips That May Help!


Don’t underestimate the power of sleep! Overall, if you want to perform better physically and mentally, you may want to pay more attention to your sleep. Research has shown that lack of sleep can have many negative health outcomes.

Poor sleep can impair:

  • Your body's ability to fight infections (affect the immune system)

  • Metabolism and fat loss

  • Muscle building

  • Insulin signaling

  • Focus

  • Cardiovascular health

Sleep & Nutrition

Sleep has multiple nutrition implications! In terms of nutrition, a good night's sleep, where both duration and quality are essential, can affect our hunger and fullness hormones; food digestion; food cravings and energy levels!

Ghrelin and Leptin are hormones that are involved in energy and appetite regulation. With lack of sleep, less Leptin and more Ghrelin is produced. As Leptin is a hormone that stimulates the feeling of fullness & Ghrelin stimulates hunger, sleep deprivation leads to more feelings of hunger throughout the day and the potential for overeating!

4 Diet Tips For Better Sleep: What Can Help & What Can Hurt?

Magnesium

Did you know that lack of magnesium in your diet can impair your sleep? This mineral plays an important role in the brain. Specifically, it enhances the secretion of melatonin which is key in regulating sleep. Hence, lack of magnesium and lead to impaired sleep. The best way to ensure you are getting enough magnesium, is eating a diet that is high in magnesium rich foods! As a dietitian, I have a first approach!

If your diet is providing adequate amounts of nutrition, getting extra magnesium from supplements will not improve your sleep! However, magnesium supplements may be beneficial for certain groups of people, like seniors, who may have deficiencies or athletes, who can loose magnesium through sweat.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

In general nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, as well as whole grains, are good sources of magnesium. Below are some examples of Magnesium rich foods:

  • Pumpkin Seeds

  • Almonds

  • Peanuts

  • Edamame beans

  • Peanut butter

  • Whole grains like brown rice or oatmeal

  • Baked potato with skin/ Sweet potatoes

  • Black beans/Kidney beans

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that promotes sleep and is found in protein foods (both plant and animal proteins). Your brain needs Tryptophan to make serotonin and melatonin, which are both sleep inducing compounds. Hence, eating protein rich foods, help with a good night's sleep.

However, one key point is that eating protein alone is unlikely to positively affect sleep if your protein rich food is not paired with carbohydrates. This is because carbohydrates play an important role is transporting and making tryptophan available to the brain. Some good examples of carbohydrates to have are bananas and sweet potatoes.

Caffeine

Caffeine can negatively affect your sleep. For some people, having caffeine does not prevent them from falling asleep, however studies have shown that is can still negatively affect the quality of sleep.

Its often recommended to avoid having caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime. This is because caffeine has a "half-life" of 6 hours, meaning half of the caffeine can stay in your system for 6 hours!

Alcohol

Some people think that alcohol makes them relaxed. However, alcohol is a suppressant, so it suppresses the mood. This is especially more significant if you struggle with depression and/or anxiety as alcohol can induce anxiety and increase stress. Again, like caffeine, alcohol can negatively affect sleep quality.

Do I Need A Bedtime Snack To Sleep Better?

The most important factor is getting adequate amounts of the nutrients that help with sleep throughout the day. A bedtime snack is not for everyone! If you are hungry, it is best to have a bedtime snack and if full, its best to avoid it as being both hungry and uncomfortably full are not conducive to sleep.

Like mentioned before, its best to pair a protein food with a food that is rich in carbohydrates. Magnesium rich foods are great too!

Examples of Bedtime Snacks

  • Hummus with whole wheat bread

  • Pumpkin seeds with a banana

  • Edamame with sweet potatoes

  • Peanut butter with whole wheat crackers

What About Supplements?

Magnesium

If you are looking at a magnesium supplement, please take note of the following:

  • Do not go over the 350 mg as Tolerable Upper Intake Level for magnesium supplementation in adults

  • Magnesium oxide: due it its poor bioavailability, it can cause side effects like discomfort and diarrhea

  • Magnesium glycinate: may be a better option as its better absorbed

Lavender

Lavender supplements may be effective in improving the quality of your sleep and reduce insomnia. If you think that stress and anxiety may be reasons that you have difficulty falling asleep, then lavender may help! Some also use lavender oils and aromatherapy or lavender teas to help them sleep.

Melatonin

A melatonin supplement may help improve the quality of your sleep. If you are traveling, it may be worth exploring as it can help with jet lags!

**Note: For all supplements, its ALWAYS important to check with your pharmacist and doctor for appropriate dose; possible side effects; interactions; and to see if it’s a good fit for you

MANA BAYANZADEH

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