Sleeping well not only makes us get up more rested but also healthier, more active and with a stronger memory and immune system. But can diet help improve sleep quality? It seems so, thanks to its ability to influence the production of melatonin and serotonin, which are hormones responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. This is what emerges from a review published a few months ago in the Nutrients journal by an Australian team (Binks et al, Nutrients, 2020).
Why it is important to sleep well
Good sleep is essential for body and brain health. Sleeping well recharges us with energy, strengthens the immune system and the memory. When we talk about good sleep quality, we mean a night's rest that can last on average between 7 and 9 hours, that occurs quickly when you go to bed and that is not interrupted by frequent nocturnal awakenings. What are the strategies to implement in order to improve your sleep quality? Diet can be a valuable aid, as evidenced by today's review.
Cherries and tart cherries
Thanks to their content in serotonin and melatonin, cherries have been shown to improve the quality of sleep, increasing the hours spent asleep and reducing night awakenings and the time taken to fall asleep. Improvements in sleep quality were observed in all age groups. Tart cherries have also been shown to improve the quality of night sleep. In fact, following the consumption of tart cherries, the participants in the research fell asleep less during the day and their night sleep was longer.
Seafood and krill
Astaxanthin and zinc are two nutrients that have been shown to work by improving sleep quality. Eating zinc-rich seafood, such as mussels, shrimp and oysters, has been observed to reduce the time to fall asleep and make sleep more restful. The same effect was obtained by taking supplements based on krill, a crustacean that prefers cold and polar waters and that, to protect itself from the sun's rays that can penetrate the waters where it lives, produces astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.
The problem of sugars
Instead, consuming high amounts of sugars and carbohydrates has been shown to increase activity and alter the sleep-wake rhythm.
When to eat
Not just what to eat, even when you eat can affect your sleep quality. In fact, eating at night can change the sleep-wake rhythm, affect liver activity and cause alterations in metabolism and digestive processes. Instead, eating at regular times protects against changes in metabolism by maintaining the sleep-wake rhythm.