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Why Good Nutrition Can Help Sleep Disorders

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A bad nights sleep affects the quality of the day too much, increases hunger, irritability and difficulty concentrating. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 40% of the world’s population doesn’t rest as necessary as needed, and still has some of the 80 disorders and syndromes listed by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders. Therefore characterised as a public health problem. Did you know that sleep disorders can be one of the risk factors for the development of chronic non-degenerative diseases, especially obesity?

In addition to being a risk factor for the development of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, sleeping poorly increases the production of cortisol. Cortisol has a catabolic (muscle breakdown) effect on tissue and is associated with a decrease in anabolic (muscle growth) hormones like IGF-1 and GH. Thus reducing levels of cortisol is ideal for an athlete to achieve tissue growth and positive adaptations to exercise training.

The increased cortisol levels may cause other health disorders, such as intestinal dysbiosis, changes in the immune system, anger, anxiety, junk food cravings, osteoporosis and osteopenia, changes in thyroid function, sexual dysfunction, irregular menstrual cycles, increased blood pressure, blood glucose, body weight and abdominal fat.

Poor sleep also affects the production of melatonin (cells repair and sleep regulate) and serotonin (a natural sleep sedative), synthesised from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, a natural sleep inducer. The bio availability of this nutrient is influenced by the ingestion of source foods such as banana, amaranth, quinoa, egg and honey (a simple carbohydrate that facilitates the entry of tryptophan into the brain).

Some vegetables, like lettuce, also helps in improving sleep for containing lactucin, a natural sedative. We should avoid fatty and stimulating food at night. They have a more difficult digestion, causing discomfort and damaging sleep. Stimulating foods like mate tea, chocolate, green tea, cola and guarana based soft drinks should be avoided as they stimulate the central nervous system, making us more alert and stimulated.

Some herbal medicines can help a lot and prevent sleep disorders, such as Griffonia simplicifolia, which converts to serotonin, helping to treat depression. L-theanine is able to control anxiety and increase levels of serotonin and melatonin. They can be formulated in specialised pharmacies under medical and nutritional prescription.

In this context, nutritional intervention is of great relevance and will focus on modulating the metabolic changes triggered by these disorders as well as preventing the development of more serious chronic diseases.

Food should be rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, plus some essential nutrients for the proper production of melatonin and serotonin such as tryptophan, pyridoxine, folic acid, cobalamin, niacin and omega-3. Supplements may be prescribed if needed, but only with medical and nutritional assessment.

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