The pandemic has prompted a greater interest in eating right and becoming more health-conscious. Perhaps you are among the many that own the latest wearables that track your steps and count how many proteins and carbohydrates we consume each day. Did you know that in addition to improving our immune system and overall mood, you can eat healthy and improve your sleep? As it turns out, eating healthy does more than keep us fit and healthy. Several different studies acknowledge the influence diet has on sleep patterns. Is your diet helping you fall asleep? Or is it making your sleep patterns worse?
Eat healthy food choices and you may sleep better
One way that our diet affects our sleep pattern is through the food choices we make. Carbohydrates are commonly understood to provide energy. When we are tired, we feel sluggish and perceive we need more energy to get through the day. Then, we tend to reach for foods that contain more fats and refined carbohydrates for our mid-afternoon snack. Additionally, studies have shown that poor sleep habits may result in eating unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and empty calories.
Sleeping poorly also influences our food choices and when we choose to eat. People living with chronic insomnia may find themselves eating more carbohydrates because they feel they need to gain energy. Also, some may develop a habit of snacking during the late-night hours and choose to skip breakfast. Then a vicious cycle is created: you eat more unhealthy foods, feel more significant fatigue, and your symptoms of insomnia may feel worse.
Instead, eat healthy foods that will satisfy your hunger and give you energy throughout the day. By mid-afternoon, many of us start craving something to snack on to get us to quitting time. Choosing a light snack of fruit and nuts will help you more than drinking a soda and eating a bag of chips.
What are the right foods to eat?
Feeling fatigued during the day? Trying to eat healthy is a great way to boost your energy. One study found that a healthy diet consisting of antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and food rich in omega 3, decreased the fatigue experienced by breast cancer survivors. Additionally, many participants reported being able to sleep better by nearly 50% because of eating a healthier diet.
Another reason to eat healthy is to improve the microbiome in your gut. Researchers considered the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet as it related to sleep quality and cardiovascular health. They observed that such foods associated with the Mediterranean diet tend to improve gut microflora. A healthy gut can help you feel well and perhaps improve the quality of your sleep.
Another popular diet that has been observed to improve sleep quality, especially amongst adolescents, is adherence to the DASH diet. The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet emphasizes decreasing your sodium intake and increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts. Given hypertension issues are related to sleep deprivation, it is reasonable that improving hypertension would also positively effect your sleep patterns.
What about Melatonin?
As a licensed professional counselor that specializes in treating insomnia, I am often asked, “Will taking melatonin help me sleep better?” Truthfully, the answer is two-fold. The research will show that there may be some benefit to taking melatonin for insomnia. However, it also depends upon your expectations for taking this supplement.
Overall, melatonin is considered safe for those that are generally in good health. Even after long term use, taking melatonin shows little adverse side effects. Moreover, melatonin can be discontinued without any side effects, even in adolescents and young adults. Prolonged-release melatonin (PRM) is also considered generally safe. Research participants that discontinued taking the PRM had minor side effects that usually resolved within two weeks. Likewise, it was observed that participants did not reach tolerant levels while taking PRM. That is, it confirms that your body can stabilize on a specific dosage of melatonin that is beneficial without having to continually being increased. Therefore, this suggests melatonin is not addictive.
There has been some research to show that melatonin may be helpful with acute insomnia symptoms. For example, when a person experiences insomnia for a short time, such as jet lag after a long trip, taking melatonin may help you get your sleep pattern back on a regular schedule.Additionally, there is evidence that taking melatonin can help you fall asleep.
However, if you are having difficulty staying asleep, melatonin may not be the answer. Some have attributed this to the confusion regarding the timing of when to take melatonin or when it will have the most significant potential for the greatest benefit. One study suggested, it is best to take melatonin when your body is starting to wind down for the night. However, given this timeframe may be different for each individual, it is not easy to offer definite instructions for everyone.
Furthermore, it can also take a while for a person to receive the ultimate benefits of melatonin. It was observed that many participants found a gradual process for improving their sleep, usually after several weeks of taking melatonin.
Although the research is scant and the sample sizes were smaller than other studies, there is evidence that melatonin may help overcome insomnia. Dependent upon your specific symptoms and expectations, taking melatonin may help to treat insomnia. It is recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider to determine if taking melatonin would be beneficial for you.
Trying to eat healthy is some thing that you have complete control that can help you sleep better. A whole food diet without refined and processed foods helps you feel empowered and improves your health and sleep. It enables you to gain a sense of control when your sleep patterns feel overwhelming.
Are you tired of not sleeping well and feeling well? Give us a call to schedule an appointment, and together, we can help you get a good night’s sleep.
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