Experts warn against having a heavy meal before your bedtime. The food we eat not only gives energy to replenish but also influences the quality of sleep.The reason: our body needs a couple of hours to digest the food. Moreover, if the food is oily and greasy, it could have an ill-effect on your gut and interfere with sleep.
Significance of macro and micronutrients
The food we consume is largely divided into macro and micronutrients. Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, while micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals.
After having dinner our body produces insulin in response to the food. In response to the hormone, amino acids are taken up by the muscles and the brain.
“Tryptophan (precursor of melatonin, sleep-inducing hormone) and other amino acids enter the brain. They are responsible for the increase in the production of melatonin, slowing down the brain activity and increase the activity of sleep-promoting center,” explains Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, HOD pulmonology, consultant in sleep medicine and lung transplant physician, Manipal Hospitals Bengaluru at a panel discussion in the Edge of Nutrition Summit 2023 hosted by Happiest Health.
The production and regulation of the hormones involved is influenced by the nutrients we eat, he added.
Certain micronutrients like magnesium, zinc, and certain vitamins are known to promote sleep. “In certain sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome we often check for the iron and magnesium levels and supplement in the case of deficiency,” said another panellist at the summit, Dr Vivek Anand Padegal, senior consultant and director of pulmonary services and sleep medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru.
Should you take melatonin supplements in case of sleep trouble?
A simple answer is no. Melatonin is naturally produced in our body by the pineal gland (in the brain) in response to the dark environment. Over thousands of years, our ancestors have been conditioned by nature and went to sleep when the sky turned dark and our circadian rhythm was developed according to the cues of nature, said Dr Mysore.
However, melatonin supplementation is new, we have understood what melatonin does recently (50-60 years). So, “Supplementation if any has to be for a sound scientific purpose, clinical indications are there,” added Dr Mysore.
Dr Padegal explained how melatonin supplementation alone cannot help you get back to your normal sleep cycle, it should be accompanied by exposure to light outside, it helps ingrain the effect of that, he added.
When should you eat before sleeping?
It is a common habit for many to sleep immediately after eating food. Dr Padegal quotes a well-known saying ‘eat breakfast like a prince and eat dinner like a pauper’.
He explained “Heavy meals towards the end of the day promote obesity, it increases your sleep latency (time taken to fall asleep), decreases your quality of sleep, which then again causes obesity, hypertension and many different problems. It is a vicious cycle.”
“One needs a gap of 2-4 hours between meal and sleep. So, as the day progresses, one needs to decrease the amount of carbohydrates and saturated fats and towards the end of the day something with maybe more fiber and less carbs,” added Padegal.
- Nutrition or the food we eat plays an important role in having good quality sleep.
- Macro and micronutrients present in our diet are involved in the regulation of hormones which promote or delay our sleep.
- Supplements for better sleep should be taken only after doctor’s consultation.
- It’s important to maintain a gap of at least 2-3 hours after having meals and before going to sleep.