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Understanding The Relationship Between Diet And Sleep

A disturbed sleep cycle can quickly become the stepping-stone to various health problems. Unfortunately, health damages caused by lack of sleep is something that the larger population has largely overlooked.

Understanding The Relationship Between Diet And Sleep

Avoid drinking caffeine near to bedtime for better sleep

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken the entire world, spreading health awareness has become the top priority in the interests of public welfare. The quarantine period induced by the pandemic has affected the sleep cycle of both adults and children. A disturbed sleep cycle can quickly become the stepping-stone to various health problems. Unfortunately, health damages caused by lack of sleep is something that the larger population has largely overlooked. When talking about overall wellbeing, nutrition and exercise take precedence, as they should. However, sleep is just as a vital element as nutrition.

Sleep deprivation is also directly linked to weight gain. Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones responsible for this penomenon. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. So, when you are sleep deprived, the level of ghrelin increases, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger. So, you may have noticed that when you don't sleep well, you have the urge to snack midnight. This is the impact of Ghrelin.

One the other hand Melatonin is the most important sleep inducing hormone. In a normal circadian cycle, melatonin peaks at around 8-9pm and then tends to wane down in the early morning hours. Melatonin is however, controlled by day and night cycle. Exposure to sunlight decreases melatonin production as you may say this happens during the day time and as soon as the sun goes down melatonin production starts signalling you to wind up the day.


You can also modulate your hormones through the food you eat, to an extent. There are certain food, which helps in better production of melatonin and other sleep promoting neurotransmitters. For example, foods containing tryptophan, which is a dietary protein helps in production of melatonin. So, tryptophan rich food like milk, banana, almonds, tomatoes, spinach, barley, sprouted lentils, salmon fish or any fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acid, lean meat may help in better production of melatonin.

GABA, is a neurotransmitter that is naturally produced in our body and it promotes sleep. So, one can also try incorporating foods contain GABA, which includes whole grains, soy, lentils, nuts including walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds, fatty fish, citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, spinach, broccoli.

In an ideal scenario, 40-45% of total energy should be derived from complex carbohydrates (for example whole grains), and incorporation of dietary protein at around 15-20% of your diet helps in a good sleep pattern. So, may be with these nutritional practices you can influence your sleeping pattern.

So, now let's look into nutritional practices holistically, that one can follow at home that can help resolve sleep issues.

Nutritional habits that can improve your sleep cycle:

  • Avoid eating high-sugar or high fat laden food at night: High glycemic index carbohydrates for dinner (sweets are one of the example), foods containing high amount of saturated fat are deterrent to a good night's sleep.
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol and caffeinated beverages at late hours: There will undoubtedly be some people who believe that drinking alcohol late in the night induces drowsiness and may aid in sleeping early, which is far from the truth. Consumption of alcohol at that hour may put you to sleep early, but you will end up waking fatigued because of deranged sleep architecture. High levels of caffeine delays induction of sleep and there is trouble falling asleep. Avoiding coffee, tea few hours before sleep time helps get you better sleep.
  • Having dinner at least 2-3 hours before your sleep time.
  • Having a brief walk post dinner is always helpful

While sleep cycles can go back to normal with good eating habits and few other healthy practices, please seek the proper medical help to guide you down the right path if you suffer from any sleeping problems or disorders.

(Dr. Sibasish Dey, Head, Medical Affairs, Asia and Latin America, ResMed)


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