The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

Lack of proper sleep (7-8 hours per night) has been repeatedly shown to be a leading cause for many mental and physical disorders, including numerous chronic problems. Just a night or two of insufficient sleep can directly lead to a lack of concentration, psychological stress, an imbalanced nervous system, fatigue, being more accident-prone and digestive issues.

An ongoing lack of proper, quality sleep can lead to more serious problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, weight gain and heart disease, as well as a lower immunity to viruses, infections and inflammation.

Our bodies need sleep as much as we need water, food and oxygen. During a good night’s sleep we “recharge” and “reset”, as our organism clears itself of toxins and heals and restores itself, while the brain is forging new thought connections that help to bolster actions like taking in and processing information, thinking clearly and performing positive and healthy actions.

Common factors that lead to poor sleep

Often, people with imbalanced and unhealthy lifestyles who don’t get enough sleep end up overstimulating themselves to keep going throughout the day. Ways of coping with this often involve drinking extra caffeine and eating high-sugar or high carbohydrate (often processed) foods (that offer an instant, but short-lived “high”), staring into computer or phone screens that emit blue light that keeps us awake, or drinking alcohol “to relax” at the end of a long day. However, all these methods do little more than make sleep even more difficult to achieve and can often lead to a sleep disorder. In the end, the lack of sleep and the ensuing (incorrect) ways of coping become a vicious cycle that can lead to serious health problems.

So how can we make a good night’s sleep a top priority and establish a new balance in our life? With a combination of dietary and lifestyle habits, and perhaps initially a hearty dose of discipline, we can regain control of our overall balance and health and achieve a rewarding new sleep cycle.

How can my diet help me sleep better?

Unsurprisingly, a diet rich in a well-balanced variety of lean proteins, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds contributes to a good sleep. More specifically, aim for foods including the following:

Tryptophan-rich foods
This essential amino acid, which helps promote better sleep and mood, can be found in pumpkin and sesame seeds, nuts, eggs, kiwi and chicken. 

This may be the only food with a high glycemic index that has been shown in a Japanese study of adults to help with sleep when eaten around three to four hours before bedtime.

Golden Milk or Chamomile Tea
According to Ayurveda, India’s ancient health science, drinking (melatonin-rich, see below) warm milk with a teaspoon of honey, a quarter teaspoon of anti-inflammatory turmeric and a heaped teaspoon of Ashwagandha apoptogenic powder helps to calm the mind and nervous system and brings about a desired soniferous state. Chamomile tea, used to induce sleep since antiquity, is high in an antioxidant called apigenin that is said induce sleep.

Magnesium-rich foods
Avocados, chickpeas and black beans, tofu, pumpkin seeds, fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel and halibut), bananas and leafy greens are all rich in magnesium a mineral that has been repeatedly shown to enhance a good night’s sleep. Magnesium also helps to calm the nervous system, improve concentration and reduce aches and pains.

Melatonin-rich foods

Produced by the pineal gland, melatonin is known as the “sleep hormone” and helps both to induce sleep and to have a good sleep quality. Walnuts, pistachios and almonds, oily fish, eggs, milk and goji berries all help to enhance melatonin production.

Other habits for better sleep

Remember, the quantity of food you eat, and the time when you eat it, are also major contributing factors to getting good sleep. Ideally, aim to eat a decent portion of food around two to four hours before sleeping so that by the time you hit the sack your digestive process will have kicked in.

Apart from your diet, you can induce a good sleep state by following some simple rituals every evening. Avoiding blue-light screens and general outside stimulation, dimming the lights in your home, having a relaxing shower and getting into bed to read a few hours before sleep (ideally before 23:00, and in a room with a cool rather than warm temperature) are all said to help considerably.

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