Over the past years, we have shifted our focus to nutrition more than ever before. Rightly so, given that it makes or breaks us. It is no secret that both nutrition and sleep play an important role and between the two of them—let's just say it's a pretty complicated relationship! However, this very relationship is often overlooked, when it is one that ensures our overall health.
"Nutrition and diet can affect the quality of sleep, there are certain foods and drinks that can make it harder or easier to get the sleep that you need" shares dietician Rohini Patil. While it is important to make sure that one consumes a balanced diet, she points out that "Meals high in carbohydrates which also have a high glycemic index can have a negative effect on one’s energy level and on the quality of sleep, they can make you feel drowsy and can hinder the sleep time and quality. It is shown in research studies that a high carbohydrate diet shows a rise in the number of awakenings at night and a reduction in the amount of deep and sound sleep" adds Dr Patil.
Ms Eshanka Wahi, a culinary nutrition coach shares a list of nutrients you must include for getting a sound sleep.
Vitamin D deficiency is generally associated with a lack of sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency lowers our immune function, influences muscle pain, and joint aches, and is also linked with low mood and emotional problems. Deficiency in this vitamin is connected with many changes in our sleep patterns and quality. For instance, fewer sleeping hours, and sleep that is less restful and restorative. Deficiency in vitamin D leads to a host of sleep issues like insomnia, short sleep duration, and overall sleep quality. It is crucial to have balanced vitamin D levels in our bodies to develop a quality sleep routine.
"Magnesium is responsible for over 300 chemical reactions that take place within our body, which make it an essential mineral for our health" shares Eshanka. Magnesium is known to regulate our body's circadian rhythm. This is done by helping the muscles relax to induce the body to sleep.
"Avoid the intake of foods such as processed fats and caffeine, as that depletes our magnesium stores. Magnesium can easily be found in green leafy greens, legumes, nuts, milk, and yoghurt. If you suffer from restlessness at night, or cannot sleep easily, I recommend having magnesium supplements an hour before sleeping a couple of times a week" she adds.
This nutrient is important for the proper functioning of the brain and to support cardiovascular health including the formation of red blood cells. Eshanka adds, "It is actively involved in regulating sleep-wake cycles by helping to keep circadian rhythms in sync. This is because low Vitamin B12 and insomnia share a very close relationship."
Meals rich in carbohydrates have a high glycemic index. This has a negative effect on one’s energy level and on the quality of sleep. "Eliminating carbs completely from our lifestyle can have an adverse effect on sleep. Whole grains, lentils, beans, legumes, carrots, squash, pumpkins are all great ingredients to include for a good night’s sleep" she shares.
"Research shows that consuming more saturated fats, more sugar, less fibre throughout the day is connected with low restorative sleep," says Dr Rohini. Ahead, here is what she suggests to keep in mind other than incorporating the above nutrients.
Eating a good breakfast helps you kickstart the day in the most cheerful way. You stay energised and filled for long. Dr Rohini points out, "But you should always have a light dinner as the heavy quantity of consumption of food can take your body longer to digest and also affect your sleep quality." Thus not only the quantity but the timing of your meal is crucial.
Secondly, curb your caffeine intake. This one is a piece of advice heard by many numerous times and each time it only stands important. While it helps in keeping us alert by hindering the production of certain chemicals in the brain, it also elevates adrenaline, which makes it difficult to sleep.
"Heavy foods which are also highly spicy and are rich in fats are harder for our stomach to digest than the healthier ones at night like whole grains, eggs etc. indigestion at bedtime makes it harder for your body to relax and doze off to sleep" she shares.