These are the foods you should eat to prevent insomnia

Not sleeping well? It could be your diet.

A new paper published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, determined that processed meats and a failure to receive the recommended daily value of vitamins can exacerbate conditions that contribute to chronic insomnia, namely obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Individuals with the condition experience intermittent breathing patterns throughout their sleep, preventing them from successfully entering the deep slow brain wave stages. 

From the report: “Dietary components such as fat intake and processed meats were associated with increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea severity. In addition, two servings of dairy foods were associated with a decreased severity of OSA at presentation”

The paper was co-authored by Caitlin Bove, MD, Vivek Jain, MD, Naji Younes, PhD, and  Marijane Hynes of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 

 Dietary Findings in Patients With Newly Diagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea

All of the subjects involved in the paper reported varying degrees of OSA. 

Each participant was put into a group based on their weight, body mass index, height, age, and individual dietary components. Those who adhered to a diet that was comprised of 35% fat or more evidenced twice the OSA severity compared to those who did not. A similar correlation was established between OSA severity and those who consumed processed meats with any sort of regularity.

The authors wrote, “We hypothesized that certain dietary components such as increased fat intake are associated with severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). There was a strong trend in OSA severity between subjects eating processed meats “often” (versus those eating “rarely/never”

The list of foods studied to preclude quality sleep is gradually becoming an extensive one, even if some of the recommendations fall in and out of academic favor. 

Previous research has shown that fiber deficiency leads to less restorative sleep as does continued intake of saturated fats.

Remember, as noted by the study featured in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, quality sleep does not denote how much time you spend sleeping. In fact, it’s possible to receive more than seven hours a night and still fall short. Quality sleep elicits the amount of time you spend in slow brain wave sleep, which spans stages three and four.

What to eat to help sleep quality

In addition to helping us consolidate memory, a recent study previously covered by Ladders revealed the fascinating ways in which the two sleep stages help us confront traumatic experiences and mitigate stressors. That particular study determined that achieving and sustaining slow-wave sleep was associated with a  30%  decrease in symptoms of anxiety.

There are many factors that determine the likelihood of this feat night by night but none are quite as influential as our diet.

I’m sure you know that excessive caffeine isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s rest, but you might be surprised to learn that the stimulant remains in our system for up to six months, upsetting our circadian rhythms in subtle ways withal. Caffeine works by suppressing chemicals in the body that promote sleep, even in small traces.

On the flip side, the researchers behind the latest study found dairy to contribute positively to slow-wave sleep. More directly, dairy’s anti-inflammatory properties reduced obstructive events during sleep.

Thanks to our correspondence with Alicia Stowell of The American Dietetic Association and Guiding Stars, we know that the potassium found in bananas reduces instances of waking up after the onset of REM, the magnesium found in chocolate positively strengthens neurotransmitters associated with sleep and Tryptophan, which is found in oats and dried fruits, is converted into Vitamin B when consumed, which in turn helps our bodies regulate the production of melatonin.

The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine concluded the following back in 2018: “Weight-loss interventions, especially comprehensive lifestyle interventions, are associated with improvements in OSA severity, cardiometabolic comorbidities, and quality of life. The American Thoracic Society recommends that clinicians regularly assess weight and incorporate weight management strategies that are tailored to individual patient preferences into the routine treatment of adult patients with OSA who are overweight or obese.”