Sleep disorders are haunting most of us. If it's not insomnia or just restless sleep, we struggle with keeping normal sleeping patterns and tend to go towards a destructive 4-5-hour sleep. Good 8-hour beauty sleep is considered to be a luxury, not a part of an everyday routine. As many as 30% of adults are experiencing insomnia and only a handful of people are actually getting enough sleep every night.
Researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons think that your diet might actually be the culprit, at least partially, according to a new study.
The study found that women whose diet was rich in refined carbs and especially in added sugars were more likely to develop insomnia than those whose diet was rich in vegetables and fiber.
The new study is one of the first to conduct such extensive research on the matter. The data was derived from more than 50 000 participants and contrary to some previous studies, the researchers also compared various different food diaries, not just focusing on people who regularly consumed high amounts of carbohydrates.
All connected to your blood sugar
The connection between the quality of your sleep and your diet is actually quite easy to understand.
Refined carbohydrates (like added sugars, white bread, etc) have a high glycemic index, making your blood sugar rise rapidly. As a response, insulin is released as a way to drop the blood sugar but during this process, hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are also released which can both mess up your sleep.
By consuming highly refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar goes on a roller coaster and you can bet it has negative effects on your whole body.
Fiber helps to keep things under control
Researchers also explored how insomnia could develop on people who consumed a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Though fruits are naturally also high in sugars, they are also rich in fiber which stops the blood sugar from spiking so dramatically.
According to the study, women who consumed a healthier diet were less likely to develop insomnia which leads the researchers to believe that fiber helped to keep things in check.
The researchers were quite clear on one thing: highly processed foods that contain refined sugars which you naturally wouldn't find in food are guilty when it comes to insomnia.
What to eat for better sleep?
As the study suggested, it's better to steer clear from refined carbohydrates but that doesn't mean you need to ditch carbs completely. Quite contrary – carbs are still essential energy sources. However, you should be more mindful when it comes to choosing your carbs.
If you're struggling with your sleep quality, here are some foods you could introduce to your daily meals.
Oatmeal is a great example of carbs done right. One cup contains about 27 grams of carbohydrates which might seem much but at the same time, it also contains about 16% of your daily fiber need. As the new study suggested, foods high in carbs can be good for you if they also come with a nice load of fiber which helps to keep your blood sugar in control.
To get the best of your oatmeal, don't prepare it with white sugar. Oatmeal itself is delicious, so there's no need to drown it with sugar. Steer clear from any sweeteners and instead, use berries and fruit to give your oatmeal naturally sweet flavor.
For an extra kick, top your oatmeal with some pure cocoa powder – cocoa powder is a rich source for various antioxidants and it has also shown cardiovascular benefits. One bowl of oatmeal can do great things for your body!
2. Walnuts and almonds
Nuts, in general, are a nutrition powerhouse. Walnuts are high in melatonin, magnesium, and serotonin which can all improve the quality of your sleep. The same goes for almonds which are also rich in melatonin, helping to regulate your sleep cycle.
As nuts are rich in healthy fats, they help to keep you feeling full for longer and keep your blood sugar under control too.
3. Kiwis and bananas
Now here's an interesting combination. In addition to being packed with vitamin C, kiwis are also rich in various compounds like flavonoids, carotenoids, melatonin, and anthocyanins. One kiwi contains over 100% of your daily vitamin C need, but just about 3% of carbohydrate limit.
Bananas have fallen under somewhat of a shade of negativity due to being high in sugar. People who are highly against carbohydrates often steer clear from bananas but actually, bananas contain much more than sugar. One medium banana actually contains about 9% of daily carbohydrate intake but at the same time, it also packs 12% of dietary fiber.
As highlighted in the recent research, this is the exact combination to keep your blood sugar stable. And at the same time, bananas help to ward off cravings for sweets.
Bananas are also rich in magnesium which can contribute to better sleep.
4. Fatty fish
Have you ever wondered why Southern Europeans and Mediterranean people live so long?
The secret lies in their diet which, in addition to fresh vegetables and fruits, is also very rich in fatty fish. Fish is their staple food – even so much that in Portugal, you can find over 1000 different recipes for cod.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel are filled to the brim with essential nutrients. In addition to covering a huge part of your daily necessary vitamin D, they're rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The combination of these two increases the serotonin production which, in turn, is essential for better sleep.
It doesn't actually take much to get better sleep. Understandably, temptations are everywhere and often, it's very hard to stay away from highly processed foods. But avoiding these – and especially added sugars – is one of the keys to longevity and health.