We sleep every day. We eat every day. The fact that these two activities take place every day is not a simple chance: both sleep and food are basic human needs. Furthermore, one can influence the other. In this post we'll talk about how sleep and food interact.
How dinner can mess up your night
Imagine those days you went overboard at dinner. Can you sleep well? Probably not... This is natural, because when we eat too much we end up superficial and fragmenting our sleep. Not by chance, sleep hygiene already includes eating habits as one of its main themes (and you can check our post on sleep hygiene here).
Of course we don't want you to miss out on your dinner. But there are some simple tips to keep you from remembering your food all night long.
• Avoid dinner too close to bedtime. A few hours between dinner and sleep can guarantee a more restful sleep.
• Avoid heavy food at night. Give preference to light meats, fruits and salads. Avoid fatty or high-carbohydrate foods. Skip fast food!
• Avoid coffee, soft drinks, black tea, chimarrão, chocolate drinks, energy drinks or any stimulating drink at night.
• You can have a snack or supper before bed. But look for foods that are light and calm you down. The old-time tips work: a milk or chamomile tea and a biscuit will do.
The importance of when you eat
Everyone worries about what we eat, or how much we eat. But more and more people are trying to understand the impact of WHEN we eat. There is even a very recent field of nutrition dedicated exclusively to this, called chrononutrition.
Indeed, it seems that mealtimes influence sleep a great deal. The truth is that quality sleep depends on regular routines and that includes our meals as well. As our day becomes more “predictable”, it is easier for our bodies to be able to predict bedtime as well. Therefore, the first big tip of chrononutrition is that you maintain a regular meal routine, always at the same times. This, added to a well-done diet control (and preferably with a nutritionist) can contribute to your nights being more peaceful.
This theme is also associated with intermittent fasting, a type of eating pattern that is often incorporated into fad diets. Research in this area is still very recent and it is impossible to hammer out what its exact effects on sleep and metabolism are. But some things can be avoided:
• Avoid diets whose fasting period is not done every day. Remember that the most important thing is regularity. So if the practice is not feasible every day, it may not be good.
• If you prefer a "time-restricted feeding" type diet - in which the feeding period is restricted to a few hours a day (2 to 12 hours, depending on the diet), prefer those whose food is more concentrated in the first half of the day ( sometimes called “early time-restricted feeding”). Metabolism results tend to be better in people who concentrate their main meals in the morning and afternoon than those who concentrate their meals at night.
• Avoid skipping breakfast (unless you have a clinical recommendation to do so). In general, people who have this practice have worse levels of blood glucose, blood fat and obesity, among other effects.
Foods that help you sleep
After ensuring that your eating habits are adequate, we can think of some foods that can improve your sleep quality. Indeed, there are many foods and teas that are classically related to sleep induction, such as lettuce, valerian, chamomile, passion fruit, among others. In general, nutritionists working in this area tend to recommend foods that are rich in tryptophan, gaba, serotonin, and melatonin.
The actual effect of these foods on sleep is actually quite uncertain, and the consensus is that simply choosing one or the other food cannot prevent or treat insomnia. But there is no doubt that nutrition should be part of an integrated approach to treating insomnia.
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