“O sleep! O gentle sleep! Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down and steep my senses in forgetfulness? “
– William Shakespeare
Do you often find your nightly slumber to be fleeting or a struggle? Have you taken into consideration what could be the cause(s)? As it turns out, you not the only American to be wresting with their sleep at night. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.1
How much sleep should you be getting for a “good night’s sleep?” “The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being.”1
“Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.”1
Top 6 Dietary Contributors to Poor Sleep
1. Dietary Composition Research shows that those who are sleep deprived have diets high in fat-rich foods, simple (or quick digesting) carbohydrates and low in vegetables. Poor choices are increased by the alteration in chemicals related to hunger and metabolism from inadequate sleep. If not properly managed, this can become a vicious cycle. Contact Elle for more details if this is an issue you are struggling with.
2. Meal Size and Timing Many have heard that eating late can contribute to weight gain. But have you thought about if that large, late dinner is affecting your sleep? Larger meals in the evening can contribute to difficultly falling asleep due to your body still working hard to digest the meal. Improve your sleep by having your largest meal midday and a lighter dinner earlier in the evening allowing 3-4 hours before bedtime for adequate digestion.
3. Caffeine Caffeine from coffee, energy drinks, or caffeinated teas can cause a disruption in your ability fall asleep and stay asleep. Caffeine has a half life of 5-6 hours, meaning, that is amount of time it will take your body to digest or excrete 50% of what you consumed. Thus, if you are having an evening coffee at 5 pm it will take until 10-11pm for the coffee to make its way out of your system. The half life of caffeine can vary greatly from person to person depending on your metabolism. Improve your sleep by refraining from caffeine 8 hours prior to bed.
4. Sugar The more added sugar you consume during the day the more likely you are to wake up in the middle of the night. Even if you don’t fully wake up, the sugar in your system can pull you out of a deep sleep, making you feel exhausted the next day. Read more about sugar and your health here.
5. Salt Ever struggle to sleep after a dinner of salty loaded nachos or Pad Thai? The robber of your restful night’s sleep maybe more than that large meal. Studies show that high intakes of salt delayed participants ability to fall asleep and created sleep disturbances throughout the night (averaging 2-3 hours of disturbed sleep). Excess salt intake will increase Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep causing the individual to dream a lot and sometimes have nightmares.2
6. Alcohol About 20% of Americans use alcohol to help them fall asleep. While alcohol may leave you feeling drowsy, it can affect the quality of your sleep. “After drinking, production of adenosine (a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain) is increased, allowing for a fast onset of sleep. But it subsides as quickly as it came, making you more likely to wake up before you’re truly rested.”3 Alcohol can also relax the muscles of your throat making it more likely for you to snore or have sleep apnea.3
Improve Your Sleep
Fiber Having adequate amounts of fiber in your diet (25 g/day for women and 35 g/day for men) will help you to get a restful night’s sleep. Studies show that greater fiber intake predicted more time spent in the stage of deep, slow wave sleep. Excellent sources of fiber include cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts), berries, beans, nuts, and whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, barley, quinoa, etc.). Try my Sun Dried Tomato Basil Hummus for a fiber boost in your diet!
Stress Management Ever find your mind reeling with tasks for tomorrow as you wrestle with sleep? Learn how to better manage your stress with deep breathing techniques, meditation, or simply some light reading.
Sleep, Weight, and Wellness
A good night’s sleep should be a key part of your wellness plan. If you are looking to manage your weight, adequate sleep is an excellent place to start.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “research suggests an association between sleep restriction and negative changes in metabolism. In adults, sleeping four hours a night, compared with 10 hours a night, appears to increase hunger and appetite — in particular for calorie-dense foods high in carbohydrates. Observational studies also suggest a link between sleep restriction and obesity.”3 Inadequate sleep can increase the hormone ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and decrease leptin (the satiety hormone) thus creating insatiable hunger or “the munchies”. Another potential contributing factor to weight gain due poor sleep is reduced energy and thus activity levels.
All in all, schedule time into your busy days to wind down and enjoy a good 7-8 hours of quality sleep! To learn more about how your diet and lifestyle affect your sleep contact Elle!