With our busy lives, the appropriate amount of sleep can often come last on the list. One in three Americans don’t get enough sleep, and it comes at a cost. Lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, not to mention a shorter life expectancy.
Short sleep duration has also been linked with obesity both in adults and children. Studies have also shown that lack of sleep is also harmful to the economy – it’s estimated that the lack of sleep among workers costs the U.S economy as much as $411 billion a year.
Studies have demonstrated that those who sleep less are more likely to consume energy-rich foods (such as fats or refined carbohydrates), consume fewer portions of vegetables, and have more irregular meal patterns. It’s good to evaluate how much sleep you are getting nightly over time through journaling or other tracking methods. By working towards getting between 7-9 hours of sleep on most nights is one of the many ways you can help reduce your risk of developing chronic disease.
Here are some tips for a more restful night of sleep:
Melatonin is a hormone that is involved in our sleep/wake cycle and its release is in part controlled by the amount of daylight. As daylight diminishes melatonin levels increase, increasing our sense of tiredness. Several B vitamins are involved in either the production of melatonin or aid in the release of serotonin from the brain. Consuming the rainbow of color when it comes to fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains ensures we have adequate levels of B vitamins in our bodies to aid both the production and release of melatonin from our brains to aid in sleep.
Melatonin is produced from the amino acid tryptophan. Consuming adequate protein in the diet will ensure the body has enough of the building block tryptophan to produce adequate amounts of serotonin in the brain. Lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, and fish may be the best bet when deciding on which animal protein to consume. Don’t forget about the plant-based proteins as well. There are a few complete plant-based proteins that provide all the essential amino acids that include quinoa, chia seeds, and soy. Otherwise, you can combine plant-based proteins to make a complete protein such as beans and brown rice, whole wheat bread and peanut butter, etc.
Consuming fats in a meal creates a sense of fullness and satisfaction that are harder to come by with fruits and vegetables and because they take longer to digest help us to feel fuller for a longer period of time. Consuming plant-based fats through nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils is a great alternative to animal-based fats. Some nuts, such as walnuts, contain a notable amount of melatonin, which can potentially have positive effects on sleep cycles.
Other things that can affect our sleep patterns and prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep are the amount of time between meals during the daytime. Try to eat your last meal of the day at least 2 hours before you plan on going to sleep and ensure that it has a balance between complex carbohydrates, protein, and fats to provide that feeling of fullness and satisfaction with what you ate. Also, strive to not go long periods of time between meals during the daytime to avoid being overly hungry at dinner time and overconsuming calories which will be converted into and stored as fat.