Eat Right, Sleep Tight

Eat Right, Sleep Tight

Drive away insomnia with the right food

What you eat may potentially affect how you sleep. To get a good night’s rest, it is important to eat food that relaxes your mind and body, rather than food that may cause discomfort

Why is good sleep important?

In Singapore, a recent study showed that one in three people are sleep-deprived, which, in turn, badly affects health.

Quality of sleep has a huge impact on daily life as being sleep-deprived can affect a person’s productivity and concentration at work. It also affects emotional well-being, potentially causing irritability and moodiness. Numerous studies have found a relationship between the quantity and quality of sleep and various health problems such as the increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and depression.

Other studies also indicate that dietary factors can play a part in getting a good night’s rest. Did you know that consuming certain foods can help promote rest and relaxation

How can we improve sleep with the right food?

Avoid eating high-fat content and heavy, large meals at night.

Consuming a heavy meal in the evening or right before bedtime may cause indigestion and heartburn, which can disrupt sleep since the meal is more difficult to break down and will take a longer time to digest. Similarly, lying down on a full stomach can also cause indigestion and heartburn. It is recommended to consume any meals at least three hours before going to bed.

Do not consume excessive alcohol.

Small amounts of alcohol can help you fall asleep, but drinking too much can cause insomnia. Having too much alcohol can suppress the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep state that is essential for a good night’s rest. Alcohol is also dehydrating and may leave you feeling thirst, which can disrupt your sleep.

Watch your caffeine intake.

Beverages or foods that contain caffeine (e.g. chocolates, coffee and soft drinks) can affect sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects people, depending on the amount consumed. If you are sensitive to caffeine, reduce your intake or limit consumption to mornings only.

Ms Ong Yawei is a Senior Dietitian at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She completed her Master of Dietetics at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. She specialises in nutritional management of surgical patients and individuals with gastrointestinal diseases.

Try drinking milk.

Drinking a glass of milk before bed may help you relax. Dairy products contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid, which helps in the production of sleep-inducing brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin. Dairy products also contain calcium, which helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. It is important to note that these may not be suitable for individuals who may be lactose intolerant.

Take a light snack.

Hunger in the middle of the night may interfere with sleep. To avoid hunger, a light snack such as a glass of milk, some biscuits or a piece of fruit could be eaten before bedtime to promote sleep.

Try drinking herbal tea.

A common way of helping with sleep is to have a cup of tea. Teas such as chamomile, passion flower and valerian may potentially have a sedative effect.

Do not drink too much fluids before bedtime.

Try to avoid drinking too much fluids too close to bedtime, so as to reduce the need to go to the bathroom during the night, especially for individuals with urinary incontinence.