Busy schedules and hectic lifestyles can mean that we shortchange ourselves on sleep. More than 30 percent of adult Americans report sleeping fewer than six hours per night. Considering most adults require eight hours of sleep every 24 hours, these statistics don’t paint a good picture of our sleep hygiene — and not sleeping enough can impact our overall health and wellbeing. The time we spend sleeping is a period of rejuvenation and growth for the body. Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation has negative effects on our ability to learn and perform various tasks.
Sleep is controlled by circadian rhythm and an alerting signal. These two systems work in tandem to make sure you feel sleepy when you are tired. Situations like jet lag or pulling an all-nighter can throw these two systems out of sync, and in turn make it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep at the right time.
The best way to address sleep issues is by understanding your circadian rhythm and adjusting when your alerting signal is high. However, your food intake can play a role in your ability to fall asleep too. For example, foods to avoid if you are trying to fall asleep include: caffeine, high-fat or high-sugar foods and alcohol. If spicy foods or dairy foods cause you to have digestive issues, that can also make it difficult to fall asleep.
Foods that may help induce sleep include tart cherry juice, calcium-rich foods, and vitamin B6-rich foods (such as bananas and chickpeas). The hypothesis is that these foods influence the neurotransmitters that promote relaxation and sleep. Warm tea may also help with sleep as it can raise the body temperature. Finally, eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains equips your body with the nutrients it needs to execute key functions, including sleep.