Fight insomnia with food – Italian Cuisine

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Sleeping is fundamental to our health. But it is not always easy. There are foods that help us to let ourselves go in the arms of Morpheus. Like honey, fantastic for fighting insomnia, almost unbearable when combined with warm milk. And then other foods much less obvious: who would have said that chicken is among the foods that promote sleep – unlike red meat?

155911Before moving on to the list of pro-sleep and anti-sleep food and drinks, a couple of pieces of information: due to the stress and of the increasingly busy days, in the last 50 years there has been one reduction average of sleep daily about 1.5-2 hours and today they are at least 9 million Italians who have developed achronic insomnia. A disorder in its own right, as it is now 15 years old, has established the World Health Organization.

The difficulty in getting to sleep or going back to sleep after i night awakenings it afflicts more and more people: tiredness, concentration and memory deficits, mood disorders, depression are the result. Not only that: scientific studies have proven that those who sleep little get fat: food comforts and satisfies, especially if it is high in fats and sugars. 155913This is why lack of sleep intensifies night visits to the fridge and, unfortunately, the choice always falls on the wrong snacks. Not only that: a recent small study has shown how to rest well at night induces a healthier diet during the day: a real cìvirtuoso, or vicious circle, therefore, depending on how our nights go.

What to do? Definitely adopt one diet that makes us dream! First of all we need to restore the biological clock. Dinner time can affect sleep: the good rule is have dinner four hours before going to sleep (and do not go to sleep late: get fat!) The sleep-friendly diet includes one Breakfast regular, at the same time every morning, rich in fibers that help to improve the quality of sleep; for dinner, a mix of carbohydrates, proteins and smaller portions of food to not weigh down the stomach and interfere with digestion. The secret lies in going to bed neither too hungry nor too full.

Foods that promote sleep

Hot dishes and maybe even liquid, like soups and velvety.

Carbohydrates complexes like those of wholemeal rice and pasta, spelled: stimulate insulin which in turn favors the availability of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that raises the levels of serotonin and melatonin, the hormone that induces drowsiness. There bran contained in the Whole grains it is also the richest food of magnesium, whose deficiency manifests itself with sleep disorders.

Fruit in season, and in particular apricots (even dried), apples, bananas, kiwis (eat a couple before going to bed, they are a sleep-safe!) and olives, sources of serotonin and melatonin, the two hormones that promote sleep, B vitamins (which promote hormone synthesis), magnesium.

Nuts, and in particular the walnuts, which raise the level of melatonin and le almonds, for magnesium. Try them also in the form of butter – such as peanuts: it is a fat that promotes insulin (do not abuse!). On bread (complex carbohydrate) is a perfect combination. There dried fruit – dates in particular – it is also an excellent source of magnesium.

Drinks that help you sleep

Warm milk: is an excellent sedative, contains calcium, magnesium and melatonin, a hormone that helps to stabilize the physiological rhythms of sleep-wake, and tryptophan, amino acid that releases relaxing serotonin, reduces nervousness and promotes rest.

Chamomile: increases the level of glycine – amino acid that induces relaxation – in the body.

Valerian and passionflower: already known from ancient Rome, they can reduce the time taken to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep; increase the level of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that keeps nervousness at bay and calms anxiety.

water: better to drink a lot during the day to stay well hydrated throughout the night, thus avoiding waking up for thirst or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The European Food Safety Authority recommends drinking about 1.6 liters of liquids for women and 2 liters for men. In total there are 8-10 glasses of 200 ml distributed during the day.

Food and drinks that steal sleep

Alcohol: just sip a glass after dinner does not hurt, but if it becomes a habit and consumption increases it can lead to insomnia. Of course, after an evening of heavy drinking it can be easier to fall asleep or better, fainting on the bed, but you have to be very careful because the alcohol upsets the patterns and cycles of sleep. During the night we usually have six or seven cycles REM (Rapid Eye Movement), the most satisfying form of sleep, during which our brain processes the information we have stored during the day. But if you exaggerate with alcohol, REM cycles can be reduced to one or two, insufficient to make us feel good the next day. In addition, alcohol transforms those who do not usually snore into professional inflators.

Coffee: due to the high content of caffeine it interferes with our deep sleep. The quality of sleep can also be disturbed by the coffee you drink during the day because the caffeine lasts for many hours. Not everyone has the same level of tolerance to caffeine, but surely those who suffer from insomnia must avoid the classic cup of coffee after dinner. Recent studies show that drinking an espresso three hours before bedtime delays the production of melatonin for at least 40 minutes.

Chocolate: not everyone knows this, but even the food of the gods is a source of caffeine. Do not overdo the quantities just before going to sleep, better just give yourself a square of dark chocolate shortly after dinner.

Spicy foods: the bad news is that spicy food gives digestive problems and raises body temperature during the first cycle of sleep, disturbing it. It is shown by numerous research that with the decrease of body temperature we fall asleep better. The chilli then is a stimulant of the nerve endings and can cause an unwanted adrenaline effect.

sugar: a recent study suggests that a diet rich in sugar disturbs sleep, precisely because of their energy power not really ideal for good sleep. In fact, the participants in the research, after taking very sugary foods and drinks, had continuous awakenings during the night. So it is better to avoid after-dinner desserts which slow down the digestive process by interfering with sleep.

Red meat: a difficult renunciation for the most impenitent carnivores, but because of the tyrosine contained in it, amino acid that increases the production of adrenaline, it is highly inadvisable.

Overly processed and salty foods: usually they are also very seasoned and are definitely too heavy to digest. Better to choose a light meal, dishes seasoned only with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. And you should not exaggerate with salt to avoid the risk of waking up several times during the night in the presence of an unbearable thirst.

article of Monica Pilotto
March 17, 2016
updated by Stella Rita
January 2019

Flickr photo Aurora983

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