How Diet and Exercise Impact Sleep and Energy Levels
The health and wellness benefits of getting a good night’s sleep have been well documented over the years. Clinical research confirms what our bodies tell us instinctively – not getting enough sleep makes seemingly everything about day-to-day life harder and worse. Exercise, brain activity, metabolism, immune function and emotional stability are some of the biggest impact areas, according to WebMD.
In our modern world, which is marked by artificial lighting, ubiquitous screens and jobs with sedentary demands, the body’s natural circadian rhythm often gets disrupted. For many people, stabilizing sleep habits requires them to maintain a number of consistent disciplines. Some of these include establishing a strict bedtime routine, avoiding blue light devices in the evening and taking Epsom salt baths or drinking certain teas to help relax their body.
Diet and exercise are two of the biggest factors that impact sleep quality. A new review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that higher-quality diets are associated with better sleep. A pattern similar to the Mediterranean diet contains the right balance of nutrients for better quality sleep, according to VeryWellFit.
“The research included in our review shows that, generally speaking, consuming more protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and healthier (e.g., polyunsaturated) fats is associated with having less waking during the night, more deep sleep, and taking less time to fall asleep,” researcher Katherine Wilson said. “One possible explanation has to do with the melatonin and serotonin content of foods, as diets that contain more fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and legumes, which are all melatonin- and serotonin-rich foods, are often associated with better sleep.”
Regular exercise can also impact sleep quality and consistency in a number of different ways, direct or indirect. Generally speaking, working out can lead to a healthy fatigue that makes rest a welcomed and natural form of relief. Also, given the strong correlation between obesity and sleep apnea, combating excessive weight gain through fitness can reduce the risk of chronic insomnia.
The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll conducted in 2013 found that, “76-83% of respondents who engage in light, moderate, or vigorous exercise reported very good or fairly good sleep quality,” compared to 56% of those who did not exercise at all.
Of course, not every case of insomnia can be fixed through diet and exercise changes alone, but they are great starting points for those looking to catch more Z’s this year.