For as long as we can remember, sleep has been considered at par with maintaining a good dietary regime, and having an active lifestyle. It is those seven to eight hours at night that ensure proper recovery for the body, mind and soul, release of toxins, growth and repair of muscles and bones, and that’s the only time our digestive system gets a break from all the abuse it goes through the entire day. The youth are basically missing out on all of this!
Why is the digestive system’s health important, you may ask? Well, it’s practically the first line of defence to keep our immune system in check. There is a mind-gut connection that ensures that all bodily functions operate in fifth gear! If the gut is stressed, so is the mind and vice-versa. So, you can tell how important it is to keep the gut healthy. And this is where we find out how the food can be a telling factor in determining the quality of our sleep.
Here, we will focus purely on foods and drinks that can help improve the quality of your sleep. For starters, let us get that dietary routine in place. You must try to eat your meals at the same time every day, that too in a timely manner. Follow this up with a break of 12 hours between your first and last meals of the day (or more commonly referred to as intermittent fasting). So in short, eat your dinner by 8pm (every evening), and wait till 8am the next day before having another bite to eat. Consumption of water is allowed at any time.
Now that we have a routine in place, let us see what nutrients are important that could promote better sleep. I will share some of the ingredients that have worked for people over the years and are tried and tested:
1. Nuts and seeds contain omega 3 fatty acids in the form of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Dopamine and serotonin are calming and relaxing neurotransmitters that are secreted upon the consumption of nuts and seeds. Personally, the thought of consuming nuts is a tasty proposition. Omega 3 or not, you should definitely add them to your daily routine for their long list of benefits.
2. The active compound in turmeric is called curcumin, and it has been proven to promote brain health, prevent anxiety issues, and even aid in quality sleep. Studies have shown that curcumin helps synthesize the DHA (mentioned above) omega 3 in the brain better, thereby enhancing its overall outcome. We consume turmeric on a regular basis. You can also consume turmeric by adding it to your herbal tea at night, which brings us to the next ingredient.
3. Chamomile tea contains apigenin, a powerful antioxidant that binds to certain brain receptors to promote sleepiness and may reduce insomnia, or the chronic inability to sleep. Now, that’s quite something. Studies have shown that postpartum women who drank chamomile tea for two weeks reported better sleep quality, as compared to a group that did not drink chamomile tea. They also had fewer symptoms of depression, which is often linked with sleeping problems. For all the moms to be, you know what to drink at night!
4. Besides this, you must in general consume a diet that replaces processed foods with more natural foods. The modern diet involves more fast foods. Ditch those and have fresh homemade food. Carry it to work if you have to. Instead of sugar, use jaggery and replace your desserts with fresh fruits. With the winter season in full flow, make the best use of fresh vegetables at your disposal. Spinach will give you lots of iron, potassium and vitamin K. Use ingredients like cinnamon and fenugreek seeds, if you’re trying to cut back on some kilos. For your digestive issues, an aloe vera extract works very well. Add millets like ragi to your chapatis to increase their fibre and nutrient content.
People often complain that ‘healthy’ foods are not tasty; but you are absolutely wrong there. You need to explore more options and recipes, and will soon realize that healthy foods not only taste great, but they will make your system (body) feel great. The fast food, black coffees and desserts might give you a temporary high, but the end result is lifestyle and metabolic imbalances, and disorders. If you don’t give your body the right environment, don’t expect sleep to come easily either. Making just some of the changes mentioned above will set you on the path to sound sleep. Try it out, you won’t be disappointed!