Sleep, much like eating and drinking, is an essential part of life. The mechanisms of sleep are only partially clear and are the subject of continuous research. There is increasing evidence showing that sleep has an influence on dietary choices and dietary choices affect sleep.
Studies demonstrated that those who sleep less are more likely to consume energy-rich foods (such as fats or refined carbohydrates), and consume fewer portions of vegetables. Our bodies need sleep to rest and recharge. Without a sufficient amount of sleep— 7 to 8 hours for most people—we increase our risk for developing serious health problems and a sleep debt.
Sleep deprivation has been tied to a number of conditions and diseases including obesity, elevated blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease. Depending on what we eat and drink, could worsen or add to the serious conditions and diseases. The question we ask is: can the food we eat or the alcohol we may drink affect our sleep and our health?
Amongst other, the following have been listed as likely foods to limit or even avoid at night for improving one’s sleep:
- A meal high in fat
- Highly refined starch or sugar eaten within 90 minutes of going to bed
- A heavy meal of meat or another animal protein
- Spicy foods
Minimising the Negative Effect of Alcohol
Alcohol is believed to be a common sleep aid—a high percent of adults rely on it for help falling asleep. But the truth is, drinking regularly—even moderate drinking—is much more likely to interfere with your sleep than to assist it.
After reviewing numerous studies on alcohol and sleep, researchers found that after a night of drinking , your entire sleep cycle is disrupted—you spend more time awake, have fewer dreams, and have an elevated heart rate. On a night without any alcohol, you move through 4 stages a few times a night. These stages include deep sleep—when your body heals itself—and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, where your brain de-frags and restores itself for the day ahead.
REM is the more mentally restorative type of sleep, says Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist in Scottsdale, Arizona. Alcohol is not an appropriate sleep aid. If one relies on alcohol to fall asleep, recognize that you have a greater likelihood to sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.
Addiction specialist, Scott Krakower, DO at North Shore-LIJ in Mineola, N.Y notes that people who drink alcohol often think their sleep is improved, but it is not. Does this mean you need to abstain from drinking altogether? Nope. But part of a smart, sleep-friendly lifestyle is managing alcohol consumption so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep and circadian rhythms.
Given the effect of alcohol on sleep and one’s health, Roger Williams, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas and former president of the American Chemical Society, has written extensively on the subject of alcohol and the effects on the body. If one enjoys their alchohol to relax or cope with stress, at the same time would it not make sense, and if possible, to mitigate some of the potential damage or consequences caused by the alcohol.
In his work, Professor Williams suggested, where one consumes alcohol regularly, to use megadoses of vitamins and an amino acid called L-glutamine. These megadoses included thousands of milligrams of vitamin C a day, all the B vitamins, especially thiamin, a B-complex supplement and L-glutamine. He also advised a generally good diet, with an avoidance of sugar is vital.
Dr Andrew Saul states that one size never fits all. Even people the same size and age will require differing amounts of nutrients, due to lifestyle and genetic factors.
In his book, ‘Doctor Yourself’, Andrew Saul writes that because beverage alcohol is a simple carbohydrate, much like sugar, supplying lots of energy and no other nutrients, one would realise that taking alcohol before sleeping, would have a major impact on the quality and duration of one’s sleep. He goes further to state that the vitamin thiamin (vitamin B1) is needed for carbohydrate metabolism and taking in extra carbohydrates, including extra alcohol, require extra thiamin.
A thiamin deficiency is likely because alcohol is filling, one consumes less nourishing foods in the diet, causing malnutrition. So if indulging in alcohol, you less likely to get even the usual dietary amount of thiamin, at a time when most required. By now you would notice the cause and effect that one needs to protect oneself from the consequences of experiencing one or more deficiency.
Studies show alcohol destroys the liver and brain gradually, but profoundly. This damage increases the need for nutrients to repair the body at the same a time given one may be eating fewer and fewer nutritious foods. Still worse, alcohol causes poor absorption and utilization of what few B vitamins are coming in from the foods eating.
A deficiency of thiamin, alone could produce the following symptoms: gastrointestinal: anorexia, indigestion, severe constipation, gastric atony, and insufficient stomach-acid secretion. Thiamin is found in almost all natural foods, but in tiny amounts.
Amongst other serious consequences of thiamine deficiency, it has been reported to include cardiovascular disease such as weakened heart muscle and even heart failure. Neurological consequences include diminished reflex response, reduced alertness, fatigue and apathy.
A lack of thiamin causes increased nerve irritation, pain, prickly sensations, deadening sensations, and, if unchecked, paralysis. Therefore Andrew Saul, vitamin B1 supplements are essential. It is noted that alcohol can literally also destroy folic acid. Vitamin B6 in combination with folic acid, can help break down the amino acid homocysteine, lowering the risk of heart disease significantly.
To get maximum results, additional nutrients must also be provided in abundance through supplementation. Andrew Saul recommends the following protocol of vitamin supplementation in megadoses. Should you require the exact amounts, you welcome to email email@example.com or purchase his book, Doctor Yourself.
- Vitamin C in great quantity. High doses of vitamin C chemically neutralize the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism. Vitamin C also increases the liver’s ability to reverse the fatty buildup so common with excessive alcohol intake.
- B complex. The B-complex vitamins work best in concert with each other.
- L-glutamine. This amino acid helps decrease physiological cravings for alcohol.
- Lecithin. This provides inositol and choline, which are related to the B complex. Lecithin also helps mobilize fats out of the liver.
- Chromium. Chromium greatly improves carbohydrate metabolism and helps control blood sugar levels. Many, if not most, alcoholics are hypoglycemic.
- A good high-potency multivitamin, multimineral supplement as well, containing magnesium and the antioxidants carotene and vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol
A reader says:
“Thank you for your alcoholism chapter. It has helped me gain control over my drinking. I have taken the supplements you suggested and feel better, sleep better, and have a better disposition. I am more patient and less jittery.”
Foods to Nourish the Body and Mind for Optimal Sleep
While many people believe that high-protein meals are key to getting a good night’s rest, the opposite is true. High-protein foods block the brain’s ability to produce serotonin.
The alternative is to eat plant-based foods that could benefit sleep. Complex carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that calms your brain and helps you sleep. Eat large quantities of the whole grains and legumes (peas, beans, and lentils) that are modest food sources of thiamin will help nourish the body.
In a first-of-its kind study by University of Colorado Boulder scientists suggests that lesser-known gut-health promoters called prebiotics, which serve as food for beneficial bacteria inside the gut, can also have an impact, improving sleep and buffering the physiological impacts of stress.
The researches found that dietary prebiotics can improve non-REM sleep, as well as REM sleep after a stressful event. However it was stated that it’s far too early to recommend prebiotic supplements as a sleep aid. There is no harm, but rather greater good to including prebiotic foods in your every day meal planning.
Prebiotics foods include the foods and supplements that help friendly bacteria to flourish. You can take prebiotics in capsule form or by eating foods such as beans, asparagus, carrots, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, leeks, onions, radishes, and tomato.
Prebiotics can be effective in producing weight loss and have always been shown to help prevent and even reverse nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the condition that occurs when excess fat is stored in your liver.
Probiotic foods — the friendly bacteria that populate the gut. You can eat cultured and fermented foods that contain live bacteria: raw sauerkraut, kimchee, and fermented vegetables throughout the day; goat’s or sheep’s milk kefir and yogurt.
In another study, it was found that diets rich in fiber and low in saturated fat can lead to deeper, more restorative sleep. It’s not uncommon for people who have improved their diets to report that they feel energized during the day and sleep better at night.
A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine also found that greater fiber intake predicted more time spent in the stage of deep, slow wave sleep. Greater sugar intake was associated with more arousals from sleep
The main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality.
The studies emphasize the fact that diet and sleep are interwoven in the fabric of a healthy lifestyle. For optimal health it is important to make lifestyle choices that promote healthy sleep, such as eating a nutritious eating plan and regular moderate exercise.
Since there is much talk about marijuana use to improve sleep, the research shows the opposite, in that its use is associated with impaired sleep quality. Results show that any history of cannabis use was associated with an increased likelihood of reporting difficulty falling asleep, struggling to maintain sleep, experiencing non-restorative sleep, and feeling daytime sleepiness. More research is required to determine and balance the benefits verse the disadvantages for sleep and health.
Other important tips to improve sleep habits include:
- Get regular exercise, but no later than a few hours before bed – 2½ Minutes of Exercise
- 2½ Minutes of Exercise Really Help Improve Performance?
- Make sure the bedroom is dark.
- Include more vegetables on your plate at night.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Marijuana use associated with impaired sleep quality.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/ 2014/06/140602102013.htm>.
Further Reading Hoffer A. and Saul A. W. The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, 2009
Andrew Saul, Ph.D., a biologist and teacher by training, has been a consulting specialist in natural healing for more than thirty-five years, helping medical doctors’ problem patients get better. Dr. Saul has written a dozen books and has published over 170 reviews and editorials in peer-reviewed journals. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine and is Editor-in-Chief of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. He was on the faculty of the State University of New York for nine years, has studied in Africa and Australia and has twice won New York Empire State Fellowships for teaching.
DISCLAIMER: The information herein is not in any way offered as prescription, diagnosis, nor treatment for any disease, illness, infirmity, or physical condition. Any form of self-treatment or alternative health program necessarily must involve an individual’s acceptance of some risk, and no one should assume otherwise. Persons needing medical care should obtain it from a physician. Consult your doctor or request an appointment with our physician specialist before making any health decision.