Sleep is often the least priority on a person’s to-do-list. Many other things seem more important than getting a few hours of sleep. To many, its the last item on their daily activity sheet. It is only when there is nothing else to do that sleep comes to mind. But like keeping healthy and eating the right food is essential for happy living, sleep is also essential. Lack of sleep directly affects one’s productivity, creativity, mental alertness, physical vitality and emotional balance. Even a minimal loss of sleep affects our energy, mood and ability to withstand stress.
How many hours of sleep do we need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, an adult on an average gets less than seven hours of sleep per night. It is estimated that most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night. Children would need more. Contrary to the belief that older people need less hours of sleep, they too need seven and half hours of sleep. They may not be able to sleep continuously at night. In such, catching a nap during the day time, can makeup for the lost sleep at night.
How to sleep better?
Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps to get good sleep. Going to bed and waking up at a fixed time every day, is more refreshing than sleeping for the same number of hours but at different times. Find the time you would normally feel tired and go to bed daily at that time. Keep up with this routine even during the week ends. Any lost hours of sleep can be made up by having a nap in the afternoons rather than waking up late.
Foods that help better sleep
A study has reported that certain nutrients do have an effect on short and long sleep duration. It is well known that people who eat a large variety of foods stay healthy and those people are found to have the healthiest sleep patterns.
According to the study people who consume less carbohydrates tend to sleep better and longer. The nutrients that contribute to long sleep are:
- Theobromine found in tea, chocolate and in all cocoa products. It is a heart stimulant increasing heart beat, and also dilates the blood vessel to lower the pressure.
- Decanoic acid found in mother’s milk, dairy products, nuts, seeds and their oils. It’s a saturated fat, that is good for the heart and helps reduce total cholesterol. Its antibacterial properties also help fight gastritis.
- Choline found in eggs and fatty meats that includes beef, liver, fish, crabs, eggs, cauliflower, tofu, almonds, peanut butter and navy beans, contributes to the structure of our cell membranes. It protects the liver from fat deposits and damage, and also offers protection against cardio-vascular disease.
Experts suggest that short sleep is an issue when the body doesn’t get enough of water. The following foods will help to increase the duration of sleep.
- Vitamin C: Good sources of vitamin C include strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, papaya, black currant, kiwi and bell peppers. An adequate amount of Vitamin C is also known to build a strong immune system and helps fight diseases.
- Selenium: Found in nuts, meat and shellfish, selenium is a mineral important for all body functions and is vital for immunity. Non-vegetarian sources of selenium are tuna, sardines, oysters, shrimps, clams, chicken turkey, beef, liver, lamb, port, and eggs. Vegetarian sources include nuts, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, onions, wheat-germ, barley, brown rice and oats.
Very short sleep
It has been found that very short sleep was associated with less consumption of the following:
- Water: Constituting 70 to 75 percent of the total body weight, it is required for all the bodily functions such as digestions, metabolism, transport and removal of toxins from the body.
- Lycopene: It is found in red and orange colored fruits and vegetables. Tomato, pink grapefruit, watermelon and guava have the highest content of Lycopene. A powerful antioxidant, it prevents free radical formation in the body. It also prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby preventing plaque deposition and narrowing of arteries.
- Total carbohydrates: Our bodies need a good balance of simple carbs and complex carbs. While simple carbs release sugar in the blood immediately, complex carbs release energy slowly, as they have to be broken down to simple units before they are finally absorbed into the blood stream. Glucose and sugar are examples of simple carbs, while wheat and other foods that contain starch and fiber come under complex carbs. A good mix of carbs make for a rich source of antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect the body against disease. A small bowl of porridge before going to bed is a great idea to get some good sleep. Both milk and oats contain the amino acid Tryptophan, which helps induce good sleep.