Getting enough quality sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, and recent research has shown that following a circadian rhythm diet can greatly improve our sleep. Our bodies have an internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which regulates important bodily functions
In a society that often prioritizes success, achievement, and work over rest, it is no wonder that many are operating in a state of total burn out. Most of us have a lot going on between work, family life, chores, hobbies, etc. However, the negative health consequences sleep deprivation imposes on the brain and body have pushed us to discuss the importance of prioritizing quality sleep.
Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for maintaining overall brain health. If you have ever struggled with sleep, you know how important it is to cognitive performance. Many with sleep issues suffer from irritating brain fog, memory issues, and difficulty focusing. It is important to take action and prioritize sleep hygiene, as chronic sleep issues may lead to long term affects. According to a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, poor sleep can lead to cognitive impairment and an increased risk for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The good new is there are lifestyle changes we can implement in order to support better quality sleep. Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm that controls our sleep-wake cycle, as well as other bodily functions such as detoxification, metabolism, and immune health. One way that we can support our body's natural circadian rhythm is to follow a circadian rhythm diet. Adhering to a circadian rhythm diet involves eating at certain times during the day in alignment with our body's natural circadian rhythm. The key to doing so involves eating your final meal in the evening before dark and opting for meals that are light and easy to digest for dinner. The majority of us are used to eating lighter meals during the day and a larger, heavier meal in the evening. However, this may stress our digestive system and prevent us from falling asleep at an earlier time as our digestive tract may have to work over time. Eating a lighter meal may also promote metabolic health by improving insulin, a hormone that is released in response to increased blood sugar and contributes to weight gain/loss and hormone balance.
Other recommended dietary guidelines to promote better quality sleep involve avoiding caffeine at least 9 hours before bedtime, and refraining from alcohol before bed. Though alcohol may be a part of your relaxation routine, many are not aware that it acts as a stimulant and may disrupt sleep patterns. Additionally, incorporating magnesium-rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts, and seeds into your diet can also support relaxation and better sleep. A diet that is rich in essential micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients is extremely important for supporting our brain health and promoting sleep. Crowding out processed and packaged foods with a colorful variety of whole foods is a great place to start!
Although our diet and meal timing may be used as powerful tools to support a healthy sleep cycle, there are certain sleep disorders that may not be resolved without additional medical intervention. If you are experiencing issues staying asleep, or fatigue throughout the day regardless of hours slept, it may be a good idea to talk to your provider about potential sleep disorders. Tools such as brain mapping and sleep studies may uncover sleep disorders including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, upper airway resistant syndrome, and more. Make an appointment today if you believe you may be struggling with sleep issues, brain fog, or fatigue.
By following these guidelines, we can support our body's natural circadian rhythm and in turn, maintain overall brain and metabolic health.
Manber, Rachel, et al. “The Role of Sleep in Cognitive Impairment and Dementia.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 22, no. 5, July 2015, pp. 427–438., doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.12.001.
"The Impact of Sleep on Brain Function." Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 18, no. 6, Dec. 2014, pp. 423–430., doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.07.002
"Circadian Rhythm Diet 101: How Eating in Sync with Your Body’s
Leach, M. J., & Sbarra, D. A. (2016). Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption in psychopathology: Mechanisms and treatment considerations. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 29, 55-64. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2015.05.002 Zhang, Y