Sleep and food two different things, but are both needed by the body to keep us alive and sustainable. Despite their differences, there are already numerous studies that prove the influence of sleep (or the lack of it) over food. But is the same thing true in vice versa?
According to a study made by the University of Pennsylvania, the quality AND quantity of food we eat can affect the way we snooze at night. By observing the diets of different sleepers, they somehow were able to correlate their eating patterns and match it with the hours of sleep they get.
Later on, they found out that normal sleepers (those who sleep for 7-9 hours a night) have the most balanced diet than the very short sleepers (sleeps less than five hours), short sleepers (sleeps 5-6 hours), and long sleepers (sleeps more than nine hours). They consume a variety of foods, drink more water, on top of having a refreshing and profound sleep.
But maybe you are the type of person who struggles with keeping that 7-9 hour of the sleep cycle. You are probably that person who finds it difficult to doze off at night, and you are wondering if the food you eat has something to do with it. You ask: what can I do to improve my sleep?
Food and Sleep: The Real Deal
Thankfully, there is a lot of literature that claims how some foods can help improve your sleep quality. The key, they said, is to increase the production of serotonin and melatonin, chemical substances associated with sleep quality and patterns. And one of the precursors or ingredients to make them is tryptophan, an amino acid that is found on protein-rich food items like meat, eggs, and dairy. Research also shows that the ability of tryptophan to be converted to melatonin increases when these food items are paired with carbohydrates. So go ahead and enjoy that late night cookies with milk!
Eat Your Vegetables!
Aside from protein, specific vitamins and minerals found in fruits and leafy green vegetables help in improving sleep. They serve as minor ingredients to make the tryptophan-to-melatonin conversion happen as efficiently as possible. An example of this would be calcium, a mineral that, when paired with tryptophan, springs up melatonin.
Magnesium and potassium are both minerals that can also help in improving your shut-eye experience. They are both responsible for muscle relaxation, especially during sleep, along with calcium. Research shows that a lack of any of these minerals results to insomnia, muscle cramps at night, and nightly disturbances.
What to Avoid before sleep
Of course, what you eat before going to bed can significantly affect the quality of sleep you will get hours after. While it is not a good idea to eat tons of food before you sleep, eating too little (to the point that your stomach is rumbling as you hit the sheets) is not comfortable either.
Strike a balance between both options. Or better yet, choose the quality of food you will eat. As much as possible, avoid high-sugar, highly-processed food items, as they may spike your blood sugar uncontrollably throughout the night.
Drinking caffeinated and alcoholic beverages hours before bedtime is not helpful either because they keep you more awake and alert than usual.
Overall, having a well-balanced diet can affect not only your waking hours but also your not-so-awake moments. This is another reason for you to invest your time in planning your meals and improve your diet. This investment would give unsurmountable returns in the long run.