Hectic holiday schedules can shift priorities. Some people will stop going to the gym, eat irregular meals and snacks, and even cut down on sleep all in an effort to get things done. Sleep, it turns out, may be the most important of all.
The connection between sleep and your dietary health is one that is often overlooked. But, the truth is—what and how much you eat depends a great deal on sleep. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep. If you consistently sleep less than seven hours, you open to the door to a long list of health-related issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.
A focus on good sleep habits can give you a head start on a healthy lifestyle.
The Sleep-Hunger Connection
Food and sleep are interconnected in several ways. Lack of sleep, also known as sleep deprivation, causes an increase in hunger hormones and decrease in satiety hormones, which can lead to overeating
Sleep deprivation also increases cravings for unhealthy foods like high-fat, sugary snacks. When you’re tired, the rewards center of your brain gets a bigger “hit” from these unhealthy foods, making you far more likely to reach for chips and cookies than carrots and celery.
But, the connection goes both ways.
Sleep Needs Nutrition
The food you eat can also impact your ability to fall and stay asleep. The myth of the Thanksgiving turkey that puts everyone to sleep does have some validity. Turkey and many other foods contain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids used in the production of sleep hormones. These foods can help regulate your hormone levels for better sleep.
A few of the nutrients to watch for and the foods you’ll find them in include:
Tryptophan: Turkey is famous for it but there are other foods that contain it too like milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, fish, and beans. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s used to make sleep hormones.
Carb-Rich: While you don’t want to eat these ones right before bed, an early dinner that includes carbohydrate-rich foods can aid in tryptophan production. When paired with a healthy fat, rice, bread, pasta, dairy products, and potatoes can all bring on extra zzz’s.
Calcium: A calcium deficiency can cause wakefulness during the night, according to a study published in the European Neurology Journal. Yogurt, milk, cheese, and leafy greens like kale and spinach can all up your intake.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a sleep hormone that starts and maintains the sleep cycle. You’ll want to include plenty of cherries, walnuts, bananas, oats, and tomatoes in your diet as all of them naturally contain it.
Sleep Habits You Don’t Want to Skip
However, better sleep will take a combination of a healthy diet and good sleep habits. Keep in mind that some people may have underlying sleep disorders that need medical attention. Don’t hesitate to talk to your physician as the solution may be as easy as a mouthguard or therapeutic pillow.
To truly get the deep, restful sleep you need, there are sleep habits you’ll seriously want to consider, such as:
Regular Bed and Wake-Up Time: The body will naturally adjust and correctly time the release of sleep hormones.
Bedtime Routine: A routine helps trigger the release of sleep hormones. Try to start your routine at the same time every day and perform the activities in the same order.
Avoiding Screens at Bedtime: Light plays a pivotal role in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. The light from electronics suppresses sleep hormones so try shutting down screens two to three hours before bed.
Proper health requires adequate sleep. And, with better sleep, you’ll be able to maintain an active lifestyle.