There is something magical about sleeping. It is the foundation for physical, mental, and emotional recovery and well-being. But sometimes sleeping well can be a challenge. In Sleeping consciously and awakening rested, This article explains how you can improve your sleep quality so that you have more energy and greater resilience during the day. In this article, Anouk explains the connection between food and sleep.
Have you ever heard of the brain-gut axis? Your gut and your brain are constantly communicating with each other. Your gut responds to what’s happening in your brain, and the emotional and cognitive centers in your brain are connected to your gut. That two-way communication between your brain and gut is called the brain-gut axis.
An imbalance in your gut, in your microbiome – for example due to gluten sensitivity – can cause low-grade inflammation in the gut. This is also called the leaky gut syndrome, a leaky gut. This results in sad moods and problems with falling asleep and staying asleep, because the leaky gut disrupts serotonin production.
Serotonin also called our happiness hormone, is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in signal transmission between the gut and brain. And 90 percent of serotonin is produced in the gut. Serotonin is also the neurotransmitter that triggers the production of melatonin – and as you now know, melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle.
The precursor of serotonin is the essential amino acid L-tryptophan, but due to the low-grade inflammation in the gut, L-tryptophan is no longer used for serotonin production. And that in turn has consequences for melatonin production. Low-grade inflammation and reduced serotonin production can therefore result in sleeping problems, but also psychological problems such as anxiety disorders and depression.
And now the good news: you can help yourself to sleep more peacefully by eating healthy and possibly supplementing your diet with supplements.
Nutrients and vitamins
Some important nutrients and vitamins are:
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid produced during digestion. We get it from the proteins in our diet. Tryptophan is found in bananas, potatoes, rice, milk, eggs, meat, fish, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, chocolate, spirulina and soybeans.
Magnesium plays an important role in converting tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin. Because it is a mineral salt that our body does not make itself, it is wise to make magnesium a conscious part of your diet. Magnesium is, for example, found in grain products, vegetables, bananas, nuts and seeds, dairy products, fish and meat. Magnesium is important for your bones and muscles. It contributes to extra energy in case of fatigue and is beneficial for a good mental balance.
In other words, vitamin Daylight! Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D for our body. So don’t forget to ‘feed’ yourself by being outside for at least 30, but preferably 60 minutes a day. Vitamin D is found in herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines in oil, eggs and avocado.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that we must obtain from food. The brain consists of 60 percent fat and therefore needs fatty acids for good and fast communication between the nerve cells in your brain. Research shows that people with severe anxiety symptoms have very low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. If you want to know whether you are getting enough and the right nutrients, you can have your values tested by a specialist, such as an orthomolecular nutritionist.
In addition to a healthy diet and the right nutrients, regularity is a very important factor. Timing your meal can help you sleep better. In fact, eating at ill-timed times can interfere with your sleep. Eating late, two or three hours before you go to sleep, can negatively affect your sleep. Even if you take an evening snack, you actually train your body to stay awake.51 In addition, research from the University of Lille has shown that regularity and TRE (Time-Restricted Eating) have a positive effect on weight loss, fat loss and circadian rhythms. So also on our sleep-wake rhythm.
To be able to sleep better at night, you need to alternate between exercise and relaxation during the day. Mentally and physically. The brain wants a clear distinction between day and night and exercise is good for an increase in adenosine and a healthy sleep pattern. The more you exercise and move, the greater the sleep pressure and the greater the chance that you will sleep well and deeply.
My tip when taking supplements: really get advice and do not start with supplements yourself, because too many of the wrong supplements can cause an imbalance.