Here’s the fifth topic of our article series, Food as Medicine. Sleep is essential. Everyone knows that. Overlooking the causes and consequences of poor sleep means putting yourself at risk of not only chronic fatigue, but also an increased risk of obesity, mood disorders, depression or cardiovascular disease. Getting a good night’s sleep helps you recover both physically and mentally from your busy everyday life. It all depends on you!
Everyone’s body is synchronized on a 24-hour cycle. This is called the circadian rhythm. In fact, the human body naturally synchronizes for 23.5 to 24.5 hours, depending on the individual. This rhythm is determined by significant neurohormonal changes. As such, melatonin is secreted in the early evening, sleep gets deeper around 2 am, your body temperature is lower in the early morning and higher at the end of the day and your memory is consolidated at night, etc.
An internal clock drives your circadian rhythm, which is nested in the hypothalamus of your brain and is made up of about 10,000 neurons grouped within two suprachiasmatic nuclei, all under the control of about fifteen “clock” genes. Since the dawn of time, human function alternates, according to day and night. However, our social behavior and the use of computers in particular, which produces blue light activating 100 times more light-sensitive receptors than white light, disrupts this natural rhythm, reducing your sleep time due to a lag between the social norms and your circadian rhythm. Eventually, your brain get confused about what time is really is.
To ensure accurate regulation of your circadian rhythm, your body uses the neurotransmitters I mentioned in the previous article: dopamine, serotonin and melatonin, in particular. That’s why dietary recommendations related to these hormones are key. Similarly, eating a light vegetarian dinner that you finish at least three hours before bed is a much better option for ensuring restful sleep, rather than eating a meal that’s high in fat and animal protein.
Alongside these tips:
And contrary to popular belief, eating a fruit high in vitamin C in the evening won’t keep you from falling asleep once it’s time for bed.
At night, remember to cool down your bedroom, ideally to 62°F (17°C), a lower body temperature that helps you get to sleep (which is why you should avoid taking a warm bath or shower right before bed), as well as dim the lights at night so that you can fall asleep in the dark, which promotes melatonin secretion.
In this regard, you might want to look into a sunrise-simulating alarm clock. Light therapy can also help you sleep better. Habits such as mindfulness meditation, self-hypnosis and cardiac coherence (taking six breaths per minute for five minutes, three times per day) are also valuable techniques for your inner wellness and more peaceful sleep… far more than taking sleeping pills.
A study published in the British Medical Journal reveals that people who take sleeping pills are three times more likely to die and 35% more likely to develop a major cancer. Dr. Daniel Kripke used the medical histories of 25,000 American patients, 10,500 of whom took sleeping pills, to claim that even when taking fewer than 18 pills per year, people were still over three times more likely to die. If you take between 18 and 132 pills per year, the risk of death is quadrupled (or even quintupled). Still, this study made waves and is still up for debate, despite its methodology having been widely disputed.
Once you’re well rested, I’ll continue by talking about how your blood sugar impacts your weight and energy levels. Stay tuned!