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Insomnia and Nutrition: Nacho Supremes And Sleepless Nights

Apr 17, 2008
Insomnia and nutrition are interrelated. The food we eat has a vital impact on all body structures, influencing nervous and physical activities alike. As one of the most important bodily functions, sleep is naturally influenced by diet. Food digestion requires a certain amount of effort from the muscles around the stomach, and this very area is also rich in nervous system ramifications. Heavy meals in the evening are not recommended since they can trigger sleep disorders. The last meal of the day should be taken at least two hours before going to bed to allow enough time for the body to process the food. Insomnia and nutrition affect people of all ages, and there is also a psychological dimension to the problem.

Hard-to-digest food can cause sleeping problems. Nutritionists recommend only light meals after six o'clock in the evening. Fruit and salads, dairy products, cereals, soups or broths all are easier to digest in the evening. Meat, sweets and foods high in fat require a greater effort by the digestive system than lighter foods. Therapists advise people who suffer from both insomnia and nutrition problems to try to drink a glass of warm milk sweetened with honey before going to bed; it is known to have a soothing effect and is conducive to falling asleep.

Insomnia and nutrition problems are common among overweight people who experience the syndrome of "emotional hunger". People who suffer from depression or emotional instability sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with food cravings and may not be able to sleep until the craving is satisfied. Although this late-night eating may work temporarily to put the person back to sleep, weight gain is an almost inevitable result, which only adds to the depression that was the initial cause. An unhealthy cycle is developed. Such disorders involve both sleep and eating habits, being deeply rooted in psychological issues that demand a quick solution. In cases such as these, therapy and other professional help should be sought to help address the cause of the problem.

Some food items are more likely to cause insomnia and nutrition problems than others. Chocolate is a prime example: due to the large amount of cocoa it contains, particularly in dark varieties, too much chocolate can cause agitation and sleeplessness in children and sensitive adults. The lecithin contained in cocoa is a brain stimulator, activating an increase in impulses at the level of the central nervous system. For this reason and because of the high fat and sugar content of most foods containing cocoa, chocolate should be eaten in limited quantities.
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