This article has been sponsored by Wakefit.co
As the night deepens, sounds in the dark grow louder. The ticking of the clock, shifting blades of the ceiling fan and a growling stomach, create a cacophony conspiring to keep sleep at bay. The only way out, it seems at that moment, is to go to the kitchen in search of a bowl full of delicious cereal or ice cream to drown away all the pent up frustration.
But, is this a solution? Experts respond with a firm no!
There is no doubt in the fact that quality sleep is irreplaceable. It is essential for the proper functioning of the body, and instrumental in ensuring productivity as well as a robust immune system. And that is why the lack of it substantially impacts both physical and mental well-being of an individual.
But beyond the usual causes like a high exposure to screen time, stress and limited physical activity, what you eat and when you eat it, also determines the quality of sleep you are experiencing.
“Drinks and food consumed to fuel the body throughout the day and before bedtime are crucial in affecting sleep afterwards. You see, it’s not just how long, but how well you manage to sleep that matters and food plays a vital role in ensuring quality sleep.” says Dr Kamal Palia, chief dietician and nutritionist at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.
So, if you are someone struggling to get a good night’s sleep, here are a few tips on improving sleep by adjusting your diet:
Say no to caffeine before bed
A piping hot cup of tea or coffee is a welcome drink – during the day, says Dr Palia. According to experts, avoid all foods and beverages rich in caffeine after sun-down as they can adversely affect sleep.
Mumbai-based sleep specialist, Dr Aditya Agrawal confirms: “Coffee and tea are obvious sources of caffeine that deters sleep. Chocolate, soft drinks and even energy drinks are to be avoided to ensure quality sleep. Ideally, one should limit the intake of caffeine in general, but avoid it at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.”
He also advises skipping alcohol before sleep as it might induce sleep faster but cause disruptions and impede quality slumber in the later hours of the night.
Adding to that, Dr Palia says that while dairy-based chocolate can deter sleep, dark chocolate with 75% and above of cocoa can aid in it. “Dark chocolate is rich in serotonin which not only strengthens the immune system but also relaxes the body and mind before bedtime,” she says.
Divide your meals
Standard advice by dietary experts is to always divide your meals from three to at least five or more in lesser quantities. This not only aids in better digestion, but according to experts, it also helps in improving sleep.
“I always tell my patients to divide their meals into smaller parts with a 2-hour interval throughout the day. This not only keeps the stomach full but also deters one from overeating at a time. This division allows for a lighter meal, especially for dinner. This also helps in weight-loss and better metabolism,” explains Dr Palia.
She adds that there needs to be a considerable gap between dinner and bedtime to ensure better sleep. This report confirms that one should wait at least three hours after dinner before going to bed.
A full belly stops peaceful slumber
“Traditionally, in an Indian household, the dinner is when the entire family eats together, and often it’s comparatively grander than lunch or breakfast. But, a heavy dinner just before bedtime can create a lot of problems like indigestion and bloating, which again would stop you from sleeping peacefully,” says the nutritionist, with over 40 years of experience.
Owing to this, nutritionists and sleep experts advise against the consumption of fatty and greasy foods before bed. Foods that are rich in protein and fats should be limited.
Dr Palia stresses the importance of carefully selecting the vegetables, meat, and fish to be cooked for dinner. “While vegetables like cabbage and raw onion can aggravate gastric problems, sweet potato is a good choice instead. Also, instead of meat, fish is a good source of protein for dinners,” she says.
No to spicy food at night
Although several articles claim that spicy food induces a sense of satiety and helps one feel full, experts say that making it a regular choice for dinner should be taken with a pinch of salt.
According to them, the intake of spicy food close to bedtime can be harmful and impair sleep. A study published in The International Journal of Psychophysiology, confirms this connecting spicy food to thermoregulation, a process where the body maintains its core internal temperature.
According to their findings, intake of spicy food before bed substantially impacted sleep patterns making it difficult to drift off. It also suggested that it elevated levels of body temperature during the first sleep cycle, resulting in low sleep quality.
As an alternative, Dr Palia suggests that consumption of spicy food should be combined with a gap of 2-3 hours before sleep and a short night stroll in the outdoors to avoid sleeplessness.
A midnight snack. Bad or good?
There are several conflicting facts around the intake of a midnight snack and its overall impact of weight gain and sleep. While some suggest that a growling stomach might be a cause for sleep deprivation, others claim that midnight food cravings can be quite harmful to health.
Clearing the mist, Dr Palia says the trick is in what you eat. “If you go for a burger, a pizza or ice-cream at midnight then that is quite harmful and will not at all help you sleep. On the other hand, sleeping with a hungry stomach might also be uncomfortable. So light yet filling snacks or warm milk with honey is the best option,” she says.
One of the best snack options she encourages is hummus over a piece of toast, which is rich in nutrients like folate, L-tryptophan and vitamin B-6 that are known to promote quality sleep. For a drink, she suggests the intake of warm milk with honey, dry fruits and a pinch of grated nutmeg, which is known for its sleep-inducing qualities.
Once your diet is in place, the next best thing to make you sleep better is your sleeping condition, says Dr Agrawal. From lighting, cleanliness to the mattress, all of it plays a vital role in ensuring quality sleep, a fact that 42-year-old businessman, Senthil Nandagopalsamy realized with personal experience.
For the past 11 years, he had been sleeping on an old cotton mattress which resulted in inducing severe back and neck pain.
“I am obese, and I weigh 130 kilos. All these years, sleeping on the cotton mattress had given me excruciating pain in my neck and back. My sleep pattern was also completely messed up because of all the tossing and turning all night to find a comfortable position on the bed. Still, all in vain,” shares Senthil who soon after purchased an orthopaedic memory foam mattress from Wakefit.co.
Made from foam that allows for body contouring, the Orthopaedic Memory Foam Mattress aids in spinal and posture alignment and helps the body relax in any sleeping position.
“Ever since I started sleeping on the orthopaedic memory foam mattress by Wakefit.co, I have been getting uninterrupted sleep and wake up well-rested in the morning. I have been using it for almost a year now, and it has helped improve my sleep pattern drastically, and the body pain seems to have vanished over time,” he adds.
It is through these sleep solutions efforts and holistic understanding of ways to sleep better, that we can substantially improve our overall quality of life.