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Up to one-third of Canadians are not getting enough sleep. With the importance of sleep to health and wellness, these statistics are worrying. This also highlights the need for newer or alternate interventions, such as looking at people’s diets.
While there are many studies on the effect of sleep on diet, there is also growing evidence on the effect of diet on sleep. The Annual Review of Nutrition compiled evidence from different studies about the relationship between sleep and diet. Most studies found that certain nutrient-dense foods can lead to better sleep duration, quality, and efficiency. Meanwhile, nutrient deficiencies can contribute to shorter sleep duration, poor sleep quality, nighttime breathing issues, and disrupted sleep-wake cycles.
So, if you are having difficulty getting enough quality sleep, it is a good idea to check your diet. Here are some tips to get you started:
EAT A BALANCED DIET
Studies showed that foods high in fiber, high in protein, and low in fat are helpful in promoting better sleep. Additionally, a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, whole grains, seafood, and poultry has been found to better sleep quality and sleep efficiency.
Having a personalized meal plan can help you keep track of your nutrient intake. WeightWatchers details that weight loss plans can be an easy way to balance your nutrient needs into a well-rounded diet. Personalized weight loss plans are carefully designed with your goals, restrictions, and preferences in mind. This way, you can focus on the foods you need for optimal sleep and health.
The Sleep Foundation reviewed studies on the effects of caffeine on sleep that showed a delay in sleep onset and a decrease in sleep duration with caffeine intake. Caffeine also reduces the time of deep, restful sleep; thus, quality is less. Caffeine can even cause sleep problems even if the intake was 6 hours before bed.
Limit your coffee intake or avoid drinking coffee or caffeinated teas in the afternoon or evenings. Also, be aware of caffeine in other things you consume, such as sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, and even pain medications; always read labels to check caffeine content.
Studies have shown that alcohol affects sleep quality as it decreases REM sleep. REM sleep or rapid eye movement is the stage of sleep where we dream, and it aids in learning and memory storage. Disrupted REM can cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and memory problems. Also, alcohol can cause or worsen sleep breathing problems which can also affect sleep quality.
Avoid or limit alcohol before bed. Recommendations state that one or two drinks are the limit for alcohol before it starts to disrupt sleep quality. Do not take alcohol as a sleep aid. Talk to your health professionals if you feel the need to take alcohol for sleep.
EAT TO AID YOUR GUT
Sleep is also connected to our gut health. ‘Gut Parasites – How They Negatively Impact Your Sleep’ discussed how parasites in your gut can affect not only the production of hormones for sleep but also the absorption of essential nutrients from your diet. These can also cause inflammation which also affects sleep. It is best to get checked and always take care of your gut.
Tips from the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation include eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than large meals and timing your last meal to be 2-3 hours before bedtime. Aid digestion by chewing your food well and drinking a lot of water. Avoid or limit foods and drinks that increase irritation, such as greasy, spicy, fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
These tips are just some of the many things which can be considered to help you, but you may also have other health needs and concerns which can affect your dietary needs and lifestyle. Consult your health care providers for specific strategies to meet your personal needs.