We all know the results of a bad sleep; fatigue, moodiness and lack of mental clarity. If the pattern continues over several nights the effects become more serious. It will become difficult to concentrate, you may start to feel depressed, and you will find yourself nodding off during the day which will increase the risk of accidents, especially on the road.



Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation has serious implications:

  • Prolonged lack of sleep suppresses the immune system, making you more susceptible to Person sleeping in front of computerillness.
  • Sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full) and increased levels of grehlin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry). So getting less than seven hours of sleep per night can predispose you to gain weight and increase your risk of obesity.
  • Sleep is important for mental wellbeing. Surveys conducted by the NHS in the UK on people with anxiety or depression reported that the majority slept for less than 6 hours per night.
  • Research has shown that those who sleep less than 5 hours per night have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Lack of sleep can negatively effect sex hormone production in both men and women resulting in lowered libidos and can cause trouble conceiving.
  • Chronic sleep deprivation is inked with increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and higher levels of inflammation in the body.


Promoting Good Sleep

3 substances key to understanding how nutrition can impact sleep quality are tryptophan, serotoninMan sleeping and melatonin.

  • Tryptophan, is an amino acid found in foods like turkey, steak, chicken, pumpkin seeds, beans and milk. It is important because once it reaches the brain it is converted to serotonin.
  • Serotonin is a chemical that carries messages between cells, decreased serotonin can lead to anxiety and depression. At night time serotonin is converted to melatonin, which is essential for sleep.
  • Melatonin helps regulate and promote restful sleep.



Protein is broken down into various amino acids including tryptophan. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain. So the best bedtime snack is one that contains both, for example cheese and crackers, warm milk, or toast and peanut butter.



The best way to ensure optimum melatonin production is to sleep in as dark as an environment as possible. Even low amounts of ambient light  (especially blue light) will suppress melatonin production. So avoid looking a bright screens before bed.



Avoid using alcohol as a sleep aid. It may help you nod off in the short term but it can disrupt sleep rhythm over the course of the night preventing you from entering the deeper stages of sleep. This can result in you feeling tired even after a full nights sleep.

Cup of coffee

Cut down on caffeine during the day, especially in the evening. Coffee, energy drinks and tea will interfere with the process of falling asleep and prevent deep sleep from occurring. Caffeine will stay in the body for up to 24 hours. A warm milky drink or herbal tea such as camomile would be a better choice in the evening.




More Information

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Liam Leech, BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science, MSc. ANutr.

Liam Leech

BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science, MSc. ANutr.



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