The mechanism of sleep has been well researched. Many studies have been published on tryptophan, the normal sleep inducer for an individual. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means that it cannot be produced by the body and has to be obtained from the diet. And why tryptophan is important for sleep is because the body uses this amino acid to make serotonin that is so necessary for healthy sleep and stable mood.
Here's how it works. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods increases the ratio of tryptophan to other amino acids and that promotes entry of tryptophan into the brain enabling the production of serotonin. Consumption of too much protein reduces the production of serotonin as the proteins compete with carbohydrates and prevent the entry of tryptophan into the brain cell to induce sleep.
AdvertisementStudies have shown that people who eat a variety of food have a better sleeping pattern. Similarly, those who are aware of spacing the meals and consuming the right food before bedtime enjoy a better sleep.
Short sleep as well as a long sleep, both, are an issue that needs to be looked into. Normal sleep is where one gets to sleep for a continuous eight hours and that keeps a person healthy. Short sleep is associated with less intake of vitamin C, and selenium, as well as excess intake of lutein or zeaxanthin generally found in green leafy vegetables.
Long sleep, on the other hand, is associated with lesser intake of theobromine, dodecanoic acid (a saturated fat), choline (found in eggs and fatty meats), and total carbohydrates and excess alcohol consumption.
It is an important area to consider since short sleep is associated with weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, whereas long sleep has negative health consequences. The ideal mix of nutrients and calories is necessary to promote healthy sleep. An individual has the potential to make a major dent in obesity and other cardiometabolic risk factors by altering the way in which one sleeps.
Having a heavy meal before bedtime affects the sleep by and large. It is necessary to have an early dinner that is light and contains the sleep inducers in them.
Poultry, yogurt and cheese are good sources of tryptophan. Nuts, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, tofu and soy products are also rich in tryptophan. Milk is a good sleep inducer. That is the reason many cultures have the habit of consuming warm milk before bedtime.
Avoid the following before bedtime:
• Stimulants - caffeine drinks (tea, coffee and fizz drinks), cigarettes and other stimulants like energy drinks that keep us awake.
• Alcohol - it may help to fall asleep but it adversely affects the quality of sleep.
• Overeating and eating too close to bedtime - this can leave one bloated and cause indigestion that makes you toss and turn in bed.
Beware of what you eat before bedtime. Eat right to sleep tight.