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RVNA Health Source: Eating to Sleep, Are You as Tired as We Are?

The concept that you can’t catch up on lost sleep is a dismaying one, particularly if you’re already a few months – or years! – behind. Fortunately, time and attention can help reverse the course and side effects of sleep deprivation. Which is a good thing because sleep deprivation can lead to chronic weight issues, fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain, trouble fighting off illnesses, depression, anxiety, and more.

Meg Whitbeck, MS RDN, RVNA’s nutrition educator and registered dietitian, has two young sons, ages 4 and 7, and – like many of us – has had her share of sleepless nights. Our question to Meg: Can we eat our way to better sleep?

“Yes!” says Whitbeck. “While diet alone won’t get you on a regular cycle of seven to nine hours of sleep per night, which are needed to get your circadian rhythms back on track, there are definitely dietary dos and don’ts that will help you along the way.”

* Eat Nutritiously: Meals rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein support good sleep.

* Leave Time to Digest: Digestion takes a back seat when we sleep, so give yourself at least two hours after your last main meal before retiring.

* Relax with a Warm Drink: Beverages like herbal teas help us relax and tame tension, encouraging a peaceful rest.

* Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol: Both disturb sleep cycles, so try to skip alcohol and late-day caffeine.

* Sweet Dreams, not Desserts: Sweets before bed can jolt us awake with a sugar rush, rudely disrupting our sleep.

* Consider Supplements: Several supplements are available for improved quality sleep. The top two are L-theanine, an amino acid, and the hormone melatonin. L-theanine, when taken in doses of about 200mg, provides a calming effect to most users. Melatonin is a hormone our bodies make which helps regulate our circadian rhythms and helps our bodies differentiate between day and night. It is the most popular “sleep” supplement available. Melatonin can also be found in many foods, with grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms topping the list. Please note that melatonin interacts with several medications, including blood pressure medications, so check with your doctor before you start taking it!

For more details or to ask questions, visit ridgefieldvna.org/nutrition-programs/ask-the-dietitian.

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