Do you find yourself yawning most often? Are you feeling irritated, tired, and sleepy during daytime or fail to feel refreshed after waking up? Do you struggle to get sleep in spite of being dead tired? Is your routine work and functioning getting affected due to this? If you answered positively, you may be suffering from a concerning sleep problem and experiencing poor sleep quality.
There are several causes responsible for poor sleep quality. And, the most common causes hampering your sleep are anxiety, stress, work shifts, excess of caffeine, high protein diet, low or no carbohydrate diets, fluctuating blood sugar levels, and magnesium deficiency. Other factors responsible for disturbing this normal, natural sleep include aging, sleep apnea, degenerative disease, and the side-effects of certain drugs/medications.
Sleeplessness also is known as Insomnia, and it has its roots way back since the ancient Greece era. Nowadays, it is a common sleep problem affecting people physically as well as mentally. However, as different individuals need sleep for different durations, so insomnia can be defined as the quality of your sleep and your satisfaction on waking up and not how quickly you can sleep or how many hours you sleep. So, if you feel drowsy and tired during the daytime even after sleeping for 8 hours, you may be experiencing Insomnia.
Based on the duration of your complaints, Insomnia can be characterized as acute or chronic. Acute Insomnia usually occurs due to certain life circumstances (for instance, the night before an exam you can’t sleep, etc.) or disturbed lifestyle behavior. It is somehow experienced by almost everyone at some time in life and can be resolved without any treatment. Chronic Insomnia is disturbed sleep affecting you at least 3 nights/week lasting for 12 weeks. It can or cannot be associated with other medical or psychiatric issues.
Altering your diet with the right foods and modifying your daily habits can put a stop to this annoying sleep problem and improve your quality of sleep, energy levels, and, finally, increasing your productivity. Altering your diet for a night to have good sleep is not just avoiding heavy foods and caffeine at night, its more than that.
It is very important to be considerate of your diet, as the mind and body are connected. Following a diet rich in Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Protein, and Calcium aids in treating insomnia naturally by regulating your sleep patterns and improving the quality of your sleep.
5 Diet & Food Habits To Follow To Improve Your Sleep Quality
Here are some foods which you should include in your diet to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Reduce Sugar and Complex Carbohydrates Intake:
Kindly cut down on sugar (all sources of sugar and sugar products) completely whether they are refined or unrefined. Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white bread or rice, maida products, regular pasta, and others, as they may minimize the serotonin levels and impair the quality of your sleep. Eat only unrefined or low carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole wheat or multigrain bread or pasta, barley, bran cereal, quinoa, and oatmeal. Make sure to combine the carbohydrates with plenty of fibers and protein, to slow down the sugar release in the body which occurs when you avoid it completely.
- Add Food Containing Amino Acids To Your Diet:
Foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which when consumed is converted into serotonin (neurotransmitter) and then into the sleep hormone called melatonin, should be included in your daily diet. Some foods comprising tryptophan include non-starchy vegetables like celery, tomatoes (removing white part), Brussels sprout, spinach, & broccoli, fruits like apples, berries, banana (only in morning), pears, citrus fruits (moderately), avocado, pomegranate, grapes, olives, and other, and legumes, such as beans and lentils).
Cheese, Tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, and milk can be taken as well along with some low carbohydrates so that the blood sugar is not disturbed.
- Improve Your Magnesium Levels:
Magnesium, the sleep mineral, acts as a natural relaxant that deactivates your adrenaline when required. A lack of magnesium affects your sleeping patterns. Intake of pumpkin seeds (5-10 gm/ 20-30 seeds) and green leafy vegetables (like spring onions, kale, cabbage, spinach, etc.) helps to increase your magnesium intake. You can also supplement it by taking its 200-500mg daily as per your doctor’s advice.
- Avoid Caffeine & Substitute It With Natural Teas:
Avoid caffeine or reduce its intake significantly. If the consumption of caffeine is high, kindly reduce it gradually to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. You can substitute it with herbal teas like naturally caffeine-free teas, such as Chamomile tea, Rooibos tea (red bush tea), Hibiscus tea, Valerian Root tea, or Decaffeinated Green tea. You can have these natural teas before sleep or with warm turmeric or almond milk for soothing and relaxing bedtime and stimulate the production of melatonin.
- Have Nuts:
Seeds and nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, and flaxseeds, help improve the production of sleep hormone (melatonin), thereby helping you to enjoy a sound sleep.
Make sure you eat at regular intervals with a diet consisting of 3 meals and 2 snacks throughout the day. Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
Following the above dietary recommendations and including these natural foods in your diet increases your melatonin production during bedtime, helps you sleep naturally, and tapers off the melatonin production upon waking up, and enables you to stay fresh and alert for the day.
- Written by Dr. Falak Khan, Associate doctor to Dr. Rajesh Shah