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Lack of nutrition can impact the quality of sleep, says Lakshita Jain

You are what you eat” may be a cliche statement, but it reflects the fact that nutrition serves as a backbone for health. Providing the right amount of food can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and improve heart health. These facts are well-known, but many people are unaware that their poor diet can also affect sleep.

Certain foods and drinks can make it easier or harder to get the sleep that one needs. Enough sleep is associated with maintaining a healthier body weight and can be beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight or have health conditions like thyroid, blood pressure and diabetes.

It’s no secret that both a healthy diet and a good sound sleep play an important role in our health, but this secret is often overlooked.

Should dieting be avoided for better sleep?

Very low calorie diet or a very high calorie diet will make it difficult to sleep. Erratic diet trends of fasting to lose weight will create sleep problems in the long term. Empty stomach or too full stomach affects the quality of sleep. Loud snoring is a common sign of overeating. Overeating or junk eating can make you feel constipated, nauseous, gassy or acidic at night which may keep you awake at night.

Consuming excess refined or rich carbohydrates diets, especially during the latter half of the day like sugar, sodas, pastries, and maida can affect the way you sleep.

High consumption of coffee and tea during examinations, work or because of habit leads to insomnia. Caffeine dehydrates your body and alerts your brain throughout the night causing sleeplessness, anxiety, frequent nighttime awakenings, and overall poorer sleep quality. Cutting back the caffeine intake as a pre workout can be beneficial for some.

What kind of diet should be followed for better sleep?

Consume a balanced diet. Researchers have shown having a balanced amount of carbohydrates- protein and fats improves the quality of sleep.

Fat rich diet takes time to be digested. Reducing to 20-30 per cent fats and till 50 per cent carbohydrates will help.

Add a wide range of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, D, C, calcium, magnesium and potassium along with balanced carbohydrate- protein and fats. Very late dinner can cause gastric problems.

Certain hormones are considered to be driving factors behind these poor nutritional choices associated with sleep deprivation. The normal production of leptin and ghrelin, hormones that help control appetite and hunger, is thrown off even after short periods of inadequate sleep.

Other chemicals in the brain that help guide food choices may also be impacted by lack of sleep. In addition, sleep is known to affect concentration, decision-making, and mood, all of which can play into the types of foods we incorporate into our daily diet.

Some foods that will help improve your quality of sleep:

Milk

Milk contains tryptophan and melatonin that may help you fall asleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in a variety of protein-containing foods. It plays an important role in the production of the neurotransmitter known as serotonin.

Chamomile Tea

Stress is another marker for poor sleep. Having two cups of chamomile flower may reduce stress and anxiety and improve sleep quality.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a magical herb for every health condition and also for sleep. Mix ¼ spoon of ashwagandha powder with a glass of milk or make it in tea form. Have it one hour after dinner.

Bananas

Bananas are rich in magnesium and potassium which helps in relaxing our muscles and may be beneficial to improve the quality of leep. Have it with milk one hour after dinner.

B12 rich foods

Caffeine awakens your mind and helps you workout or focus more. But it dehydrates the body in the long run and can cause anxiety and sleeplessness. Adding B12 supplement gives the same focus and alertness but will also improve the quality of sleep.

Ajwain and methi

Ajwain with honey will help you relax or two teaspoons juice of methi leaves along with one teaspoon of honey taken daily.

(The author is a certified clinical dietician, diabetes educator, meat technologist, and the founder of NUTR.)

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