Your diet plays a major role in determining your sleep patterns. Try these tips to ensure peaceful sleep.
You might have noticed your normal sleep pattern has been revised ever since lockdown and the outbreak of Covid pandemic. For some, the sleeping hours may have increased 2x or 3x, but on the other side, some people have cut off their sleeping hours. Life has changed dramatically for many of us, from our usual daily routine – including commuting, meal times, and the amount of time we spend outside – has been modified because of the home isolation.
All of these changes have affected our natural circadian rhythm, which is our biological clock of the body that plays a key role in regulating our sleep pattern and metabolism. It controls body temperature and hormones in order to make us feel alert during the day and tired at night based on our melatonin hormone.
Exposure to light (natural/ screen light etc.) and regular meal times are two of the most powerful forces in aligning our circadian rhythms. However, for many of us, quarantine/work from home has changed the amount of time we spend on physical activity. It has adversely affected the eating cycle, like eating at irregular intervals.
No doubt, the lockdown period made a positive impact On our lives. Apart from keeping us away from the Covid-19) infections, we developed healthy eating habits. We relied more on home cooked meals rather than stepping out and eat. On the contrary, we snacked more on the oily stuff. The exercise scheduled turned hayware. Sleeping cycle became toxicated because of the late night work, binge-watching favorite web series. The quality of sleep also reduced. Overall, people specifically with obesity improved their diets the most. However, they also experienced the sharpest declines in mental health and the highest incidence of weight gain.
Healthy tips for a sound sleep
· Develop your bedtime routine at least an hour before bed. Try to stop work before preparing to go to bed, reduce screen time, meditate well, or go for good breathing practice. These techniques allow us to relax and help our circadian rhythm take control by releasing hormones that will promote sleep and reduce alertness.
· Proper exercise: Both aerobic and resistance exercises have been shown to have positive effects on the sleeping pattern. It is best to avoid vigorous exercise at night or one hour before bedtime as this may reduce our sleep duration, quality and make it more difficult to fall asleep in the first place.
· Avoid caffeinated beverage post 7 pm. However, we all respond differently to caffeine consumption because caffeine is a known stimulant to make us active and keep awake. So when trying to fix your sleep pattern, it may be best to limit caffeine intake after 7 pm.
· Practice Pranayama: It stimulates your melatonin hormone and relaxes your muscles from stress.
· Good choice on carbs type: Eat complex, low-GI carbohydrates only around dinner time, not afterwards, to boost serotonin levels needed for sound sleep. These include quinoa, oatmeal, millets, buckwheat, sweet potato or legumes. Avoid processed carbs, such as breads, biscuits, muffins and cookies, which prompt a short-term spike in blood sugar.
· Chocolates/ pumpkin seeds with milk / berries: Pumpkin seed powder with warm glass of milk, gives a potent punch of the amino acid tryptophan that is good for a sound sleep. Sour berries are supplied with natural melatonin, the hormone produced in the brain that helps fight insomnia and promote sleep. Even chocolate contains tryptophan and is one of the richest dietary sources of magnesium, which can help improve sleep.
· To avoid waking up in the middle of the night, limit your liquid intake two or three hours before bedtime. So that you can avoid multiple trips to the washroom and by empty full bladder, which hampers sleep.
(The author is a lifestyle coach and diet counsellor. She tweets @Bipasha1sugati)