Nothing is more annoying than insomnia – but you know what’s worse than plain annoyance? Insomnia/lack of sleep can hurt our health, productivity – and our weight too! In fact, science is clear that sleep debt delivers expanded waistlines.
Researchers from University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine reported last year that skipping just a single night of sleep leads to a shift in brain activity which sparks a desire to consume not just more calories but also more fat the following day. There! So basically, how much and how well you sleep can affect how much you weigh.
But scoring a good night’s sleep of 7-9 hours is becoming a dream these days thanks to stress and myriad other factors.
So how does one do it?
Apparently scoring enough zssss is as easy as tweaking our dinner. Literally. So here’s a dinner menu, broken down just for you, to ensure better sleep:
1. Paneer or yoghurt and whole wheat roti with spinach
Milk at bed time to help you sleep better is not just an old wives’ tale. It works because it is loaded with tryptophan, an amino acid our body uses to produce serotonin and melatonin – both of which are brain chemicals that induce sleepiness and relaxation. And this, fortunately, works for other dairy products like cottage cheese and yoghurt too. Plus, all dairy delivers healthy doses of calcium, which is linked with better sleep.
Spinach delivers the necessary calcium and fibre too – and pairing it with a whole wheat roti helps score magnesium (deficiency of magnesium makes it harder to stay asleep).
2. Fish with rice
Eating rice leads to a serotonin (a neurotransmitter that elevates the mood) surge, and makes us serene, sleepier, and sated. Plus, rice is easy to digest (does not tax the intestines too much), which is important for a good night’s sleep.
But be careful: eating a large meal too close to bedtime will make you uncomfortable – so control the serving size and eat a few hours before sleeping.
Fish is its perfect companion as it delivers a lot of vitamin B6 which is essential to make melatonin in the body – the “body clock” hormone that sets our sleep-wake cycles – as well as convert tryptophan in our body to serotonin (the deficiency of which can lead to serious sleep disturbances). Fish also delivers selenium, again an important mineral for sleeping well.
3. A soup, a salad containing lettuce and a whole wheat toast with hummus
Sipping a warm soup is INSTANTLY sleep inducing, and a lettuce-based salad could speed up your bedtime further as this leafy wonder contains lactucarium that has sedative properties paralleling opium.
You could add some tryptophan rich turkey to the salad, or get your protein from hummus made from chickpeas – another brilliant source of tryptophan. Have it smeared on whole wheat bread, which delivers complex carbs and magnesium, both of which help.
Cherries or dark chocolate
Skip heavy deserts – eat some cherries instead.
This delicious fruit is one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin. Or, have a small piece of dark chocolate; this contains serotonin, which relaxes our body and mind.
Walnuts or banana or dried figs
If, after an early dinner, you do get an urge to eat something (as you sit pounding the comp to finish that presentation) just pop in a few halves of walnuts. These will instantly increase melatonin in the body.
OR, snack on a banana: it contains magnesium and potassium (natural muscle relaxants), delivers carbs which induce sleep, and is packed with tryptophan.
Finally, dried figs – which are loaded with calcium – are great to chew on too.
Chamomile tea with a bit of honey
Sipping chamomile leads to an increase of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative. Add a little bit of honey to it, as it slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily, and also tells your brain to shut off orexin, the chemical known to trigger alertness.
(Kavita Devgan is a weight management consultant, nutritionist, health columnist and author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People.)