Exploring the Connection Between Nutrition and a Restful Night
I don’t know if it’s my age or maybe I need to reconsider my current caffeine intake, but lately, my sleep has been pretty subpar.
As a nutritionist supporting clients in various health conditions, including dysfunctional sleep onset and maintenance, I thought I had my sleep hygiene practices down pat. However, my current Fitbit stats would disagree with you. But I digress. Let’s talk about the quality of your sleep, why it’s crucial to your well-being, and what I consider one of the most essential pillars of health. Let’s go!
Why is sleep so important?
Quality sleep is the cornerstone of overall health, influencing physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Adequate sleep supports:
- immune function
- cognitive performance
- mood regulation
And plays a crucial role in:
- cellular repair
- hormone balance
- memory consolidation.
Conversely, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and obesity.
So why is a nutritionist talking about sleep?
That’s because sleep and diet are intrinsically linked – what we put in our mouths and when can influence the quality of our sleep.
A well-balanced diet significantly influences sleep patterns, creating a crucial link between nutrition and a restful night. The circadian rhythm, our internal body clock, is intricately connected to meal timing. Consistent meals help regulate this rhythm, synchronising our biological processes with day and night cycles. Disruptions, such as irregular eating schedules, can disturb the circadian rhythm, potentially leading to sleep disturbances. Recognising and aligning our dietary habits with the body’s natural clock can promote healthier sleep patterns.
Where do nutrients fit in?
Moreover, specific nutrients play a pivotal role in sleep regulation, underscoring the intricate relationship between what we consume and our ability to attain restorative sleep. Understanding and incorporating these nutritional nuances into our diets can be a proactive step towards cultivating better sleep hygiene and overall well-being.
Using the #foodismedicine principle, let’s have a look at what foods can be incorporated into our diet to help with sleep decency:
- Tryptophan, an amino acid absorbed from food, competes with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier. Once in the brain, it undergoes enzymatic reactions to convert into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood and promotes a calming effect; further conversion leads to melatonin, a hormone regulating the sleep-wake cycle, with increased levels in the evening, signalling the body to prepare for sleep. It’s important to note that converting tryptophan into serotonin requires magnesium, B3, and B5 nutrients.
Best foods to include: oats, bananas, dried prunes, milk, tuna fish, cheese, bread, chicken, turkey, peanuts, and chocolate.
- Glycine is my absolute favourite compound to use for sleep promotion. Glycine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, supports sleep by calming the central nervous system and balancing excitatory signals. It may influence body temperature (beneficial during perimenopause), signalling the body for sleep, and has been linked to an increase in slow-wave sleep, crucial for physical restoration. Additionally, glycine’s interaction with melatonin and potential alleviation of insomnia symptoms contribute to its sleep-promoting effects.
The best foods include bone broth, poultry skin, legumes, spinach, and dried seaweed.
- Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has calming effects on the brain, reducing neural excitability. Additionally, magnesium synthesises melatonin, a hormone essential for the sleep-wake cycle. By supporting melatonin production, magnesium helps regulate the body’s internal clock for sleep.
Best foods to include: Leafy greens, dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Practical Tips for Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment
While diet has a role in sleep quality, our lifestyle and environment also have a significant impact. Here are my top 3 tips for creating a sleep-friendly environment:
Establishing a Consistent Sleep Schedule:
- Align your body’s internal clock by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This consistency reinforces the natural circadian rhythm, optimising the quality of your sleep over time.
Creating a Relaxing Bedtime Routine:
- Wind down before sleep with a calming routine. Engage in activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practising gentle stretching. This signals to your body that it’s time to transition from wakefulness to a restful state.
Managing Stress through Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:
- Incorporate mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing or meditation, into your evening routine to alleviate stress. Progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery can also help quiet the mind, making it easier to drift into a peaceful sleep.
A note on supplements:
In cases of chronic deficiencies, nutraceuticals provide targeted, long-term support. Practitioner-grade formulations offer the proper nutrients in readily absorbable forms, personalised to individual needs, providing short-term benefits while sorting out your diet. Always consult with a qualified practitioner like Katie or myself before starting supplementation. Book in for a free 15 minute discovery call here.
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This blog does not provide individualised health advise. The information mentioned in this blog is educational in nature and is here to help you make informed decisions regarding your health. It is essential that you work with your healthcare practitioners to assess what is right for you.