Good eating habits to adopt to improve your sleep
Our eating habits influence our nights. Our rhythm, first, but also the content of our plate: some foods keep us awake, others put us to sleep. The point on our questions and our beliefs.
It’s an unstable balance that plays out on a daily basis. If our biological clock does not receive the appropriate signals every day, it risks shifting and our sleep is disturbed. Among these precious indicators: light, physical activity but also food. “With the current rhythms of life, people tend to skip breakfast, eat quickly and little at noon, then catch up in the evening. This is embarrassing, because late and overly hearty dinners disturb sleep”, notes the Dr Laurence Plumey, nutritionist. So, meal timethere distribution of contributions over the day and the choice of food are all factors that influence the functioning of our internal clock. Such interactions deserve to be better known, because better eating habits can improve our sleep.
What time is it best to stop eating to sleep well?
The ideal would be to dinner two or three hours before going to bed. “Eating late forces the body to activate when it should normally fall asleep. This delays the onset of the night,” explains Laurence Plumey. Thus, for a bedtime around 11 p.m., it is better to have dinner between 8 and 9 p.m. Not too early either, because leaving too long a period between the last meal and waking up could trigger nocturnal cravings.
Also, sleep is prepared throughout the day. Favor a balanced and diversified diet, avoid skipping breakfast or snacking, eat real meals as soon as possible at regular times: so many tips that promote good health and peaceful nights.
Should we have a light dinner?
Dinner neither too much nor too little, just right, as Goldilocks, the little girl in the story, would say. Not too much, because fatty and hearty meals are difficult to digest. Brazilian researchers have shown that a fat dinner led to more restless sleep. “Similarly, it is better limit protein intake in the evening“, advises Professor Damien Léger. In question, their stimulating effect on awakening. Exit the entrecôte, the tartiflette or the fries! Favoring foods rich in protein in the morning or at noon helps to increase your vigilance. At dinner , a small piece of fish, a slice of ham or an egg is more than enough.
A light dinner, then, but not too much either. “A salad and yogurt? That would be a bad option, warns Joëlle Adrien, member of the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance (INSV) and research director at Inserm. Dinner should provide enough energy to at night, so that the body and brain can function for ten to twelve hours. This is the longest period of fasting.” If you dine too lightly, the brain must requisition carbohydrates in the early morning. An activity that risks fragmenting sleep and causing an early awakening. Between too much and too little, it is a balance to be found.
What foods to eat in the evening?
Starchy foods – rice, pasta, wholemeal bread… – are the dinner key foods : the carbohydrates they contain, released gradually in the body, provide energy throughout the night. Another ally of our sleep: sweet products. A fruit paste or a spoonful of honey promotes drowsiness within a quarter of an hour. “Sugar would activate, in the brain, neurons involved in falling asleep and maintaining sleep”, specifies Joëlle Adrien. Another, older explanation is based on the secretion of insulin induced by the intake of sugar: this hormone stimulates the release of serotonin, a sleep-promoting neuromediator. To put the odds on your side, opt for a starchy dinner, followed by a sweet snack.
The common point between an adult sleeping less than 6 hours per night and a teenager less than 8 hours? They eat less well than the longest sleepers: less fruit, vegetables and fish, more fatty foods, sweets and alcohol. They are more likely to skip breakfast or eat at irregular times.
Do tea and coffee really prevent you from sleeping?
Coffee, tea, Coca-Cola, energy drinks… Stimulants are a scourge for our nights. “During the day, they are consumed to fight against drowsiness. But their effect is prolonged in the evening, when going to bed. At night, caffeine, even in small quantities, makes sleep more fragmented, less restorative. Consequence: we feel tired the next day, so we take stimulants again. It’s a vicious circle, describes Joëlle Adrien. It’s not a question of banning it, but of limiting its consumption to two to three coffees a day, before 3 p.m.” According to an American study, drinking a double espresso before going to bed would delayfalling asleep about forty minutes.
In 2015, an INSV survey showed that coffee consumption was higher among those who sleep less, compared to those who sleep the most. long sleepers. Admittedly, caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person, but its effects are often underestimated. Not only does it prevent falling asleep, but it alters the quality of sleep. Especially since caffeine accumulates as it is consumed during the day, and remains in the body for a long time. How does it act on the biological clock ? It delays it by preventing adenosine, a small molecule that promotes sleep, from binding to its brain receptors. With all due respect to gourmands, caffeine is also present in chocolate; 100 g of dark chocolate is equivalent to approximately one cup of tea or espresso. A square is fine, but ten… In short, it’s better not to crack on the tablet after dinner.
Can we eat oranges at night?
“Due to a slightly stimulating effect, it is advisable not to take vitamin C at the end of the day”, we frequently read on the boxes of vitamin C tablets. In question, the participation of this molecule in the synthesis hormones involved in wakefulness. Are oranges to be put in the same basket? “No, it’s a received idea, sweeps away Dr. Laurence Plumey. The consumption of fruit in the evening, even the richest in vitamin C, is not likely to prevent someone from falling asleep.” Let it be said: grapes, kiwis, strawberries, oranges, lemons and other grapefruits can be eaten at any time of the day without affecting the quality of our nights.
Bad nights, junk food, overweight, obesity: the infernal circle
A night too short, and we rush to the refrigerator. How the lack of sleep does it influence our appetite? “It disrupts our metabolism”, summarizes the researcher Karine Spiegel, of Inserm, who studies these mechanisms. In healthy young adults, after two four-hour nights, she found an 18% drop in leptin, the satiety hormone, and a 28% increase in ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Another example of the multiple phenomena at play: “The stimulation of orexin neurons, a neurotransmitter involved in the state of wakefulness and hunger, activates brain areas linked to pleasure”, she adds. Consequence: shortened nights increase hunger and appetite, especially for fatty and sugary foods.
Today, evidence of the link between lack of sleep and obesity is accumulating. THE risk of overweight and obesity would even be doubled in children and adolescents who do not get enough sleep. And as obesity leads to lower quality sleep (sleep apnea, insomnia), a vicious circle can set in. After diets and physical activity, will sleep be a new axis in the fight against this modern scourge? In any case, according to Karine Spiegel’s work with obese young adults who lack sleep, extending their nights by at least an hour allows them to snack less.
Alcohol and tobacco interfere with sleep
A cigarette to relax, a glass of wine to fall asleep… These rituals that we believe to be beneficial actually disturb our sleep.
Nothing like a red balloon to fall into the arms of Morpheus? It’s true, alcohol makes you drowsy and makes it easier to fall asleep. The other side of the coin: “Three to four hours later, alcohol disturbs sleep and sometimes triggers a insomnia“, says Joëlle Adrien, member of the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance. Nocturnal awakenings, chopped sleep, need to urinate, snoring… “Often, people do not realize this delayed effect”, regrets the specialist. Depending on the sensitivity of each, it can even occur from the first glass of wine.
Same problem with nicotine. Her anxiolytic effect provides relaxation and pleasure. But it is also a intellectual stimulant which increases alertness. Falling asleep therefore becomes more difficult, and the nights shorter. But that’s not all… The picture can become darker because respiratory problems are likely to appear, especially if the room and the bedding are impregnated with tobacco. Failing to quit, it is better not to smoke at the end of the evening and to leave the cigarettes far from the room.
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