We rarely think that correcting our eating habits can have an impact on our quality of sleep. We repair our bodies when we sleep. It’s important to know that the right diet for sleep gives us the energy to not only complete our tasks on time but also strengthens our immune system. Moreover, diet for sleep improves memory, repairs our bones, tissues, heals our wounds and makes us live energetically.

Our body functions upon a 24-hour cycle of light and dark, called the circadian rhythm and this daily mechanism regulates the secretion of melatonin in our body. This hormone helps to keep our bodies in sync with the rhythms of day and night and in turn regulating our sleep pattern.

Research has indicated that many age-related problems may be caused by declining levels of melatonin, (an antioxidant). Melatonin also has been found to stimulate the immune system; have a major role in the production of estrogen, testosterone, in the prevention of certain cancers; and even slowing the growth of existing malignancies.

Melatonin is also one of the most potent antioxidants in nature as it protects our body from free radical damage. The melatonin level has also shown to affect cardiovascular function and menstruation.

Diet for Sleep: Maintain Your Melatonin Level

It’s quite evident that light and darkness are the primary factors that set the rhythms of melatonin production. They are not the only factors involved. In fact, it has been found that variations in the diet for sleep can also affect the rhythm of melatonin production.

Here are a few simple ways to help your body maintain optimum levels of melatonin naturally for better sleep, delayed ageing and overall well being:

  • Adopting a discipline in eating pattern and having meals at regular intervals help as it strengthens the rhythm of melatonin production. Keep the mealtimes as regular as possible to keep the body in sync with the rhythms of the day.
  • Have light dinners. Your digestive process slows down when melatonin production begins after nightfall. Thus, any heavy foods eaten close to bedtime may lead to enhanced digestive problems, which can make it difficult to sleep. It is advisable to have small, light meals of soup, vegetables or grilled chicken with wheat bread for dinners.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee, tea, and caffeine-containing medications and colas as they interfere with melatonin production.
  • Vigorous activity can delay the melatonin secretion. So, avoid high intensity exercising late at night. Exercising in the mornings, preferably outdoors will reinforce healthful sleeping habits.
  • Eat foods rich in melatonin: Diet for sleep should be rich in melatonin. Some of the best sources are oats, sweet corn and rice. However, the amounts present in these foods are small and you might have to take a supplement. Ginger, tomatoes, bananas and barley also contain small amounts of melatonin. Melatonin reduces oxidative stress to the body and helps it to repair.
  • Adopt healthy habits for better melatonin production
    • Sleep in comfortable clothes, adequate ventilation and complete darkness.
    • Your diet for sleep must be rich in melatonin and vitamin B6 such as whole grains, nuts, sprouts and fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • You can add good carbs like whole grain like barley, oats, rice and corn in your diet for sleep.
    • A glass of warm milk (almond milk for those who are lactose intolerant, cow’s milk for others) at night helps you to sleep better
  • The practice of meditation has positive health effects such as improved energy and calmness of mind. There is research that suggests that meditation may aid in boosting the levels of melatonin.

The best approach seems to be to follow the natural lifestyle approaches that boost the levels of this remarkable hormone. You can achieve this by a healthful diet, exercise, avoiding late night activities and getting enough sunshine.

(As Published on January 7, 2019, in Hindustan Times)

January 8, 2019

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