Ms Salma S. Khan, Nutrition Consultant & Health Writer from ZingTality explains the benefits of getting a decent night’s sleep.
Chronic lack of sleep is now recognised as a health hazard. Sleeping less than 8 hours each night may be just as harmful as gorging on junk food or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of sleep has been associated with reduced immunity, diabetes, high blood pressure, accelerated aging, depression, lack of concentration and obesity.
Research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported that feeling tired or exhausted encourages a person to eat more food, consequently contributing to weight gain. Interestingly, not only is getting enough sleep important, but so is the timing. Research suggests that our bodies do the most healing while we sleep between the hours of 10 pm – 2 am, so remember every minute before midnight is golden.
Some people however may have sleeping issues – whether not being able to sleep affects you from time to time or frequently, these simple suggestions may help you to get to sleep more easily and wake up feeling more refreshed.
Cherries: Studies suggest that cherries, in particular tart Montmorency cherries may help to improve sleep quality and help a person to fall asleep more easily. Cherry juice is a natural source of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin that is believed to help promote sleep. According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research, scientists suggested that tart cherry juice may improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia. Other research reports that drinking tart Montmorency cherry juice twice a day may help increase sleep duration by nearly 90 extra minutes per night.
Tryptophan: The amino acid tryptophan is used to produce the sleep inducing neurotransmitter serotonin and the sleep enhancing hormone melatonin – the right levels are thought to promote deep, restorative sleep. Insufficient levels of tryptophan in the diet may result in disturbed sleep, and even low mood or depression. Dietary sources of tryptophan include turkey, chicken, beans e.g. chickpeas, fish, eggs, avocados, walnuts and bananas.
Eating starchy carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta or rice alongside tryptophan containing foods may make this calming amino acid more available to the brain. Starchy carbohydrates are thought to stimulate the release of insulin, which may help clear those amino acids that compete with tryptophan from the bloodstream. Thus allowing more of this natural sleep inducing amino acid to enter the brain and manufacture sleep inducing serotonin and melatonin more efficiently.
In contrast, eating a high protein meal without accompanying carbohydrates may keep you awake. This is because protein rich foods also contain the amino acid tyrosine that is thought to make us feel alert. So eating more protein in contrast to carbohydrates at lunch time could be beneficial, as usually we want to be feeling alert during the day and not at bedtime.
Magnesium: Research published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that low levels of magnesium make falling asleep more difficult. Several studies have reported that the mineral magnesium may help to relieve insomnia by relaxing the muscles of the body, and helping a person to feel calm. Magnesium is thought to help decrease the stress hormone cortisol that may play a role in disrupting sleep. Food sources of magnesium include various nuts and seeds such as almonds, as well as beans, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
Epsom Salts are also a source of magnesium, and may act as a relaxant when used in the bath or foot tub to soak your body or feet in. Interestingly, studies suggest that magnesium and sulphur from Epsom Salts are absorbed through the skin. Use 2 cups (250g) of Epsom Salts to soak in the bath, or use them to soak your feet in (1/2 cup/125g) for 20 minutes prior to going to sleep.