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Let’s shine a light on sleep.
No doubt many of us have woken up feeling a few z’s short of a picnic – that is how you use that idiom, right?
Not really but sleep deprivation can easily interrupt your ability to accurately process information, so it probably makes sense to some. It can also influence your cravings, food choices and your ability to change your body composition.
And no doubt some new parents, shift-workers, or sufferers of chronic can provide a few real-life examples.
Because we want to be our best, getting enough sleep is important.
Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone and is primarily produced by the pineal gland in our brain. Melatonin production increases when it is dark and can be supressed when it is light.
This means we are naturally wired to wake in the morning, grow sleepy towards the
afternoon and sleep throughout the night.
A precursor to melatonin production is tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in certain foods like some dairy products, tart cherries/tart cherry juice, kiwifruit, and walnuts. The amino acid profiles of these foods are impressive and the consumption of one, or a combination in the evening may encourage your brain to produce the stuff dreams are made of – Melatonin.
Foods naturally high in magnesium may help too. Foods like brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, minimally processed carbohydrates and thank me later, dark chocolate.
While this may be pleasing to hear, the cocoa bean also contains caffeine which we know as a stimulant.
Eating dark chocolate or drinking coffee, cocoa, black or green tea before bed likely gives you a bit a caffeine which tells your body to do the opposite of what you are trying to achieve – sleep.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, assess your intake and modify as needed.
Pain and the coinciding raised inflammatory markers might also be contributing to poor sleep. If you are sore or injured and it is impacting your sleep, go to your physio. To support a reduction in inflammatory markers, think about your oily fish intake.
Oily fish is an omega-3 powerhouse, and unlike a lot of plant sources of omega-3, contains Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which may help to decrease inflammatory markers.
I generally recommend people eat 3 oily fish meals a week, or to look for a supplement containing DHA. Note, there are vegan friendly supplements around.
I will always be biased towards nutrition; I am a Dietitian. But realistically nutrition is one piece of the puzzle and in a lot of cases, other lifestyle factors need to be addressed on order to wake up feeling fresh.
Eat and hydrate well, move your body and manage your stress levels. Once you are confident you are doing this check to see how you are sleeping. Hopefully a bit better.