Sleep Care

Food, Smoking, Caffeine and Sleep

Eating the right foods is a necessity for improving your sleep efficiency.  Understanding what foods benefit sleep, how they benefit sleep and when to eat them will lead you down a path of more restful nights.

 

Your circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, is what tells you when it is time to sleep and time to wake up.  The process is regulated by a hormone called melatonin, which is made from serotonin, a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter.  For your body to make serotonin, it must receive an amino acid called Tryptophan, which is common in a lot of plant and animal products.  The intake of Tryptophan creates a calming demeanor and the onset of sleepiness.  Eating foods that are rich in Tryptophan, like chicken and fish, at dinner will increase the levels of melatonin which keeps your circadian rhythm regulated, resulting in the possibility of restful nights of sleep.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are foods that stimulate the body.  Foods like ham, bacon, sausage, cheese, tomatoes and even chocolate contain an amino acid called Tyramine.  Tyramine stimulates the brain to release nonepinepharine, a form of adrenaline, and this can keep your body wired all night long.

The digestive system naturally slows in the evening.  Eating a large meal late in the evening will cause the digestive process to work in “overdrive” and increase metabolism, which in turn creates restlessness for the body.  On the flip side, going to bed on an empty stomach can cause blood-sugar levels to fall, which triggers appetite sensors in the brain which can cause arousal from sleep.

There are some steps you can take in addition to healthy, well balanced, sleep-friendly meals that will help aid sleep.  Firstly, don’t go to bed on a full stomach.  In addition to boosting metabolism, it can cause heartburn.  This discomfort also does not promote sleep.  Secondly, eat dinner three to four hours before going to bed.  This will allow adequate time for digestion.  And finally, don’t go to bed on an empty stomach.

Smoking also plays a role in your ability to get a full night’s sleep.  Smoking before bed puts nicotine into your body which goes to the sleep centers of the brain, causing your body to be stimulated and often restless.  The end result turns out being a bad night’s sleep. Smoking is also linked to the development of some sleep disorders.  Smoking is a known cause for the beginning of snoring and is also proven to make snoring worse.  Smoking reduces the efficiency of the lungs to transport oxygen to the blood, which can cause a person to wake from sleep gasping for air, breaking up the sleep pattern.  Smokers also affect their sleeping partner’s ability to get a full night’s sleep with snoring and coughing.  Quitting smoking is beneficial for improving sleep quality.  Giving up smoking will promote deep sleep and improve other aspects of personal health.

Finally, caffeine also plays a role in the ability to get a restful night’s sleep.  Believe it or not caffeine is considered an addictive drug and affects around 90% of Americans in one way or another.  The intake of caffeine causes blood vessels in the brain to close, constricting blood flow, which does not promote rest.  Caffeine also causes the release of epinephrine, a form of adrenaline that is responsible for “fight or flight” phenomenon.  This release of adrenaline causes the body to become more alert and can even offer a temporary high.  To promote a full night of restful sleep, it is advised that you not consume caffeine 4-6 prior to bed time.

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