sleep better by changing your dietThe new year has begun and with it comes many new years resolutions.  Perhaps you have committed to improving your health by making better decisions about what you eat every day.  It’s true that making wise food choices can help you lose weight and improve your overall health.  Did you know that eating healthier can also help you sleep better?   Recent studies have observed it is possible to sleep better by changing your diet.  One such diet is the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is a collaboration of foods that originate from the cultures of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.  While there is no specific foods assigned to this region, the diet commonly consists of abundant servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.   While the overall foundation is plant-based, some servings of fish, shellfish and poultry are also included in moderation.  An occasional glass of wine may also be enjoyed; especially beneficial with friends.  

Reducing inflammation will help you sleep better by changing your diet

 One of your new year health goals may be to reduce inflammation and oxidation throughout your body.  Poor sleep is attributed to increased inflammation and oxidation in the body, which has been linked to numerous health problems.  One reason for the increased inflammation and oxidation levels may be caused by poor eating habits that often are synonymous with poor sleeping habits and insomnia symptoms. When you are feeling tired then your are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods. 

Adherence to a Mediterranean diet has been proven to be anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative.  Hence, a Mediterranean diet lifestyle may result in better sleep and improved health.  One study observed that “…some foods characterizing the Mediterranean dietary pattern, such as olives, some kinds of fish and seasonal fruits, are good sources of melatonin…” (Mamaleki, Anastasiou, Ntanasi, Tsapanou, Kosmidis, Dardiotois, et al, 2018). Melatonin is a natural resource that your body uses to promote sleep.  The researchers observed that following a Mediterranean diet may lead to better quality of sleep.

Consider nutritional support 

Although the Mediterranean diet is more flexible than other diets regarding specific foods, there are some nutrients that may help improve your quality of sleep.  For example, researchers observed that  a lower intake of selenium coincided with difficulty falling asleep.  Selenium is a nutrient found “…in meats, seafood, dairy products, grains and nuts…” (Grandner, Jackson, Gerstner & Knutson, 2014).   It also has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.   Other nutrition sources that can help improve sleep are calcium and Lycopene.  Calcium was observed to help people fall asleep more easily and gain restful sleep.  Lycopene was also observed to aid in falling asleep.  Meanwhile, the researchers noted that Potassium may help with daytime sleepiness.  

Additionally, the researchers further observed the benefits of vitamin support as related to getting more restful slumber.  Vitamin C is noted to boost immunity for protection against physical ailments. Yet, another reason to increase your vitamin C intake is to foster greater restorative sleep.    Decreased levels of Vitamin C may result in sleep that can leave you still feeling tired and not refreshed (Grandner, Jackson, Gerstner & Knutson, 2014).  Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables. Likewise, if you have problems waking up in the middle of the night, you may want to take another look at Vitamin D.  Vitamin D was observed to help people stay asleep longer.   As such, the aforementioned demonstrates that anyone, vegan or carnivore, has the ability to sleep better by changing your diet.

Finally, researchers in Spain sought to find out if the following the Mediterranean diet had any influence the sleep patterns of older people (Campanini, Guallar-Castillon, Rodriguez-Artalejo & Lopez-Garcia,  2017).   It was observed the older adults were able to increase their sleep duration in some cases by 2 hours or more.  It was also observed that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet resulted in an increased self report of more consistent patterns of improved sleep.  

So then, what does this mean for you?  While this may not be a guarantee that you will definitely sleep better by changing your diet to incorporate foods that are synonymous to the Mediterranean region, it is definitely something to consider as you make your new year resolutions.  Healthy choices tend to have healthy benefits, particularly when it comes to sleep.  Perhaps instead of reaching for the processed snack cake as a pick me up, you can grab a piece of fresh fruit that will keep you hydrated.  Or instead of isolating this winter, grab a friend and cook a healthy meal together while enjoying the social aspect.  Who knows, maybe you each of you will start to sleep better by changing your diet to include healthy food and positive social friendships. 

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bellisle F. Infrequently asked questions about the Mediterranean diet. Public Health Nutr. 2009; 12(9A): 1644–1647. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1017/S1368980009990498

Campanini, M.Z., Guallar-Castillon, P., Rodriguez-Artalejo, F., Lopez-Garcia. (2017). Mediterranean diet and changes in sleep duration and indicators of  sleep quality in older adults. Sleep, 40(3).  doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1093/sleep/zsw083

Jaussent, I., M.Sc, Dauvilliers, Yves,M.D., PhD., Ancelin, M., PhD., Dartigues, Jean-François,M.D., PhD., Tavernier, B., Touchon, J., M.D., . . . Besset, A., PhD. (2011). Insomma symptoms in older adults: Associated factors and gender differences. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 19(1), 88-97. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/846730551?accountid=12085

Grandner, M.A., Jackson, N., Gerstner, J.R. and Knutson, K.L. (2014). Sleep symptoms associated with intake of specific dietary nutrients. J Sleep Res, 23: 22-34. doi:10.1111/jsr.12084   https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/doi/full/10.1111%2Fjsr.12084

Mamalaki, E., Anastasiou, C.A., Ntanasi, E., Tsapanou, A., Kosmidis, M.H., Dardiotois, E., Hadjigerorgiou, G.M., Sakka, P., Scarmeas, N. & Yannakoulia. M.  (2018). Associations between the mediterranean diet and sleep in older adults: Results from the hellenic longitudinal investigation of aging and diet study. Geriatrics Gerontology International; 18: 1543– 1548. https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1111/ggi.13521