How to Eat Properly for Sound Sleep

  • By Kim Chul-joong

    September 25, 2021 08:13

    More and more Koreans complain of insomnia, with the result that products purporting to help are also proliferating. They include a "robotic" pillow that simulates breathing, and a headband that helps ease tension to promote sound slumber.

    Harassed Koreans sleep less than the global average. Dutch home appliance maker Philips conducted a study on sleep patterns in 13 countries which showed that Koreans sleep only an average of 6.7 hours a day compared to the global average of 6.9 hours.

    Research shows that people are healthiest if they sleep seven to seven-and-a-half hours a night, which means Koreans need to sleep at least 30 minutes more every night. One way to do that is to stop using smartphones before bedtime, but eating properly can also make a world of difference.

    Certain foods help the body produce ample amounts of the sleep hormone melatonin. Look out in particular for foods that are rich in tryptophan, which turns into melatonin. Milk, low-fat yogurt, cheese and other dairy products are rich in both, as are shrimps, salmon and tuna, and eggs, beans, nuts, sunflower seeds, bananas and avocados.

    People can increase the amount of sleep they get by 30 minutes to an hour a night if they eat foods containing tryptophan and magnesium, expose themselves to sunlight at least 30 minutes a day and refrain from looking at their smartphones at least an hour before bedtime.

    Calcium also helps the brain produce melatonin, and calcium deficiency can make people wake up at night and cause problems falling asleep again. Dairy products, green beans and broccoli contain lots of calcium.

    Avoid eating right before bedtime. When the body warms up digesting, it becomes difficult to fall asleep. Instead, the body temperature should drop through the night to ensure sound sleep.

    Spicy foods before bedtime can cause heartburn and indigestion, and fatty foods take longer to digest and hinder the production of melatonin and orexin, which regulate the cycle of sleep and wakefulness.

    Also, watery fruit or food can wake people up in the middle of the night because they need the bathroom. Coffee and dark chocolate are also a no-no at night, and while alcohol may knock people out, it wakes them up soon afterward.

    Lee Eun, a psychiatrist at Yonsei University Severance Hospital, said, "People need to wake up at set times every day and expose themselves to sunlight in order to ensure sound sleep at night. Taking frequent naps to make up for lost sleep can end up making it more difficult to fall asleep at night."

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