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Sleep – Unlocking The Gates Of Slumber – Part 2

Written by: Dr. Pamela Stoodley, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Dr Pamela Stoodley

Amidst life's complexities, the undeniable significance of quality sleep takes centre stage. Now, as we transition to Part 2, join us in unravelling the intricate relationship between nutrition and the realm of rejuvenating slumber. Welcome to a journey where the ingredients of our waking nourishment meet the alchemy of restful nights.

A sleeping woman

Nutrition and diet: Supporting quality sleep


The relationship between our dietary choices and quality of sleep is a significant factor. Just as we carefully select ingredients to fuel our waking hours, our kitchen decisions can greatly impact how easily we transition into sleep. Let's explore the dietary aspects that can either aid or hinder a good night's rest.


Caffeine's prolonged effect


That morning cup of coffee can linger right into the night. Caffeine found not only in coffee but also in teas, fizzy drinks, and even chocolates, has a half-life that can last for hours. Consuming caffeinated beverages in the afternoon or evening can interfere with the body's natural wind-down process. Those who feel they are immune to the effects of caffeine before bed may fall asleep easily (it is what caffeine does) but suffer a decreased total sleep time (with multiple awakenings) and daytime sleepiness, as caffeine, being a stimulant interferes with your deepest sleep (REM cycle) stage. Closer to bedtime, caffeine has the undesired effect of temporarily elevating your heart rate and blood pressure, which is not ideal. Consider establishing a caffeine curfew (ideally six to eight hours depending on how sensitive you are to caffeine) to allow your body enough time to metabolise this stimulant, and facilitate a smoother transition into a qualitative sleep.


What goes in


What you eat in general can greatly impact your sleep cycle. And when you suffer from poor sleep, you tend to make bad food choices. Paying attention to what you eat, especially your evening meal is crucial. Heavy or spicy meals close to bedtime can lead to discomfort and indigestion, making it challenging to settle into a restful slumber. High consumption of foods and drinks with added sugar, including sugar-sweetened beverages, energy drinks and confectionary, is associated with shorter sleep duration and poorer quality of sleep. Opt for lighter, easily digestible evening meals, preferably consumed a few hours before bedtime. A well-balanced mix of complex carbohydrates and lean proteins can provide sustained energy without burdening your digestive system as you prepare for sleep. Certain foods actively contribute to a more restful sleep. Bananas, rich in magnesium and potassium, can act as natural muscle relaxants. Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews, are high in proteins and minerals such as magnesium and zinc and are a nutritious and sleep-friendly snack option. Tart cherries and kiwifruits are believed to promote better sleep, thanks to their rich content of melatonin and serotonin, respectively. Experiment with these choices to find what works best for your body's rhythm.


Alcohol's influence


Similar to caffeine, alcohol can exert a considerable impact on the quality of sleep. While it might seem like a nightcap can induce drowsiness, the truth is alcohol disrupts the natural sleep cycle. Even a low intake of alcohol can have adverse effects on your sleep, reducing sleep quality by 9.3% when consuming less than two drinks for men and less than one for women and about 39.2% when more than two drinks by men and one drink by women was consumed. It tends to fragment sleep, leading to more frequent awakenings throughout the night. Additionally, alcohol acts as a sedative, potentially causing snoring and sleep apnoea. Even though it might help you doze off initially, the overall sleep architecture is compromised. Limiting alcohol intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, is crucial for fostering a more uninterrupted and restorative night's sleep.


Hydration practices


While staying hydrated is essential for overall well-being, the timing of hydration can impact sleep quality. Consuming large amounts of liquids right before bedtime may lead to disruptions with toilet trips during the night. Aim to stay hydrated throughout the day but reduce liquid intake in the hours leading up to bedtime to minimise nocturnal interruptions.


Mindful eating habits


Beyond specific food and drink choices, cultivating mindful eating practices can contribute to a smooth transition from dinner to sleep. Avoid eating in bed or front of screens, as this can disrupt the connection between eating and the relaxation response that precedes sleep. Take the time to savour your evening meal, engaging in a mindful and intentional dining experience.


In the broader context of sleep, each bite and sip contributes to the overall composition of nightly rest. By approaching nutrition and diet with mindfulness toward their impact on sleep, we not only nourish our waking hours but also set the stage for a night of deep and restorative slumber. Sweet dreams are influenced by the choices made at the dinner table and the awareness brought to the act of nourishing both body and soul.


"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." – Virginia Woolf

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Brainz Magazine Dr Pamela Stoodley
 

Dr. Pamela Stoodley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr Pamela Stoodley is a polymath with her range of specialties in being a general physician, child and adolescent psychologist, neuropsychologist, counsellor in addictions psychology and a nutritionist. Dr. Stoodley's first book 'Cracking the Happiness Code' teaches people the way our minds work and how best to use it to our advantage. Her life's mission is to show people how they can break the myth of a hard-wired brain and leap forward into the world of neuroplasticity for their own mental (health) agility. Her wish is to be able to empower every human on this planet ‒ from toddlers to retirees, the weapon of Mastering our Minds.

 

References:

  • Chaudhary, N. S., Grandner, M. A., Jackson, N. J., & Chakravorty, S. (2016). Caffeine consumption, insomnia, and sleep duration: Results from a nationally representative sample. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 32(11-12), 1193–1199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2016.04.005

  • Alahmary, S. A., Alduhaylib, S. A., Alkawii, H. A., Olwani, M. M., Shablan, R. A., Ayoub, H. M., Purayidathil, T. S., Abuzaid, O. I., & Khattab, R. Y. (2019). Relationship Between Added Sugar Intake and Sleep Quality Among University Students: A Cross-sectional Study. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 16(1), 122–129. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827619870476

  • Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism., Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm

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