To sleep well, one must eat well, think well and live well

The long-term side effects of sleeping disorders includes increased risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, stress, depression, mood disorders and gastrointestinal disorders

Puja Karnani Agarwal Published 08.05.23, 10:24 AM

Sourced by the Telegraph

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,Chief nourisher in life’s feast”

These famous lines by Shakespeare’s most iconic tragic hero, Macbeth, after he had lost sleep, underscore the importance of sleep in the most poignant way. Sleep or the lack thereof, has, for ages, plagued not only the mortals but even the literary lionhearts. Yet sleep is the sine qua non of human health and well-being. It is, as Shakespeare says, the main and most nourishing course in the feast of life, symbolising innocence, purity and peace of mind.


Sadly, however, in this fast-paced and highly tech-driven world of today, sleeplessness is pervasive and deeply entrenched in the social fabric. If data from recent research findings are anything to go by, then most people do not sleep enough. This has resulted in sad ramifications for the collective human health worldwide.

The long-term side effects of sleeping disorders are associated with an array of deleterious health consequences, including increased risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, stress, depression, mood disorders and gastrointestinal disorders. Moreover, lack of sleep often leads to undesired food (carbohydrate/CHO) cravings, which, in turn, may cause chronic health issues.

What is even more alarming is that sleep disorders are found to be widely common among children and teenagers as well and, in most cases, access to digital devices is found to be the reason behind their affliction. A systematic review and meta-analysis (20 studies with a total of 125,198 children) found that bedtime access to media devices was significantly associated with the following in school-aged children, six-19 years old:l Inadequate sleep quantity l Poor sleep qualityl Excessive daytime sleepiness

Clinical research by Dr. Matthew Walker, the renowned English scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at University of California, Berkeley, show:l Sleep as a potential biomarker of tau and beta-amyloid burden in the human brain;l Sleep loss increases the experience of pain;

l Sleep loss causes social withdrawal and loneliness; andl Sleep is a way for neurons to recover and detoxify.

Moreover, a recent publication in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled Does Sleep Flush Wastes From the Brain?, says: “In an animal study, natural sleep or anaesthesia promoted an increase in the brain interstitial space, allowing for more exchange between the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and interstitial fluid (ISF). This flux of fluid facilitated the rate of beta-amyloid clearance during sleep hours.”

This detoxification during sleep is actually a repair process for our immune system and organs and it helps reduce inflammation.

Sleeplessness isanti-nature

There is something magical in the mere sight of a sleeper; the sheer passivity, the immobility, the innocence, the helplessness; the sight brings home to us the idea that the sleeper is made one with nature. This also leads us to the fact that sleeplessness is anti-nature.

Interestingly, what we do during our wakeful state determines when we fall asleep, how quickly we fall asleep and how we feel when we wake up the next day. Hence, when it comes to sleep issues, it is important to understand whether we are having trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or whether we are waking up too early.

Once we figure that out, it is time to ask the following set of questions:

  • Is there an adequate opportunity to get sleep?
  • Are there medications taken that are impacting sleep?
  • What is the sleep environment like?
  • Are there comorbidities, stress, obstructive sleep apnea, substance abuse?
  • Your Chronotype: morning person or night owl?
  • Do you take naps during the day?
  • What is our caffeine intake/timing?
  • Do we travel a lot?
  • What are our eating patterns/timings?

Effective ways to promote sleep and wellness

The answers to the above questions are imperative in finding ways for better sleep. Depending on the answers we can adopt certain lifestyle changes like that of our food and drink habits and also include some healthy activities that scientifically promote healing and restoration to trigger lasting improvements in our sleeping patterns.

Food items that promote sleep

  • Magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, teas: chamomile, passionflower, lemon
  • Protein improves sleep in patients with obesity
  • Anti-inflammatory foods
  • Foods rich in B vitamins (should be taken in the morning if supplementing), Zinc: 30mg per day and Vitamin D
  • Nutrient-dense food and supplementation to support the production of melatonin and sleep

Activities that promote sleep

Consider writing in a journal any disturbing thoughts running through your mind. If you’re having trouble managing your concerns for more than a few weeks, consult your healthcare provider. You can also adopt a relaxing bedtime ritual that works for you. Restorative activities like meditation, gratitude journaling, deep breathing and breathing techniques, guided imagery and/or visualisation, massage, sauna, or water therapy, mindful eating, walking or body scan and many others are time-honoured, science-backed ways to make a difference internally.

Some research has found that breathing exercises including full lung exhalation, belly breathing and alternate nostril breathing, can ease anxiety and may help us sleep better. They may also help to balance hormonal and immune function, making you more resilient and healthier.

Another very powerful way to promote sleep, particularly in children, is exposure to morning light, which sets the timer on our melatonin release 14-16 hours from the time of exposure. This melatonin burst in the body facilitates our readiness to sleep. Moreover, it is also important to consult your doctor to determine whether any of the medications you take have stimulating effects which might be contributing to sleep problems. However, do not stop medicines without talking to your doctor.

Activities that impede sleep

Many people turn to semi-harmful activities to counteract stress; these actually act as stimulants and are often a perfect recipe for insomnia. Here are some of the activities you need to minimise or avoid:

  • Alcohol within three hours of bedtime and caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2pm
  • Large meals or spicy foods before bed
  • Drinking more than 4-8 ounces of fluid before going to bed;
  • Sudafed® or other decongestant cold medicines at night;
  • Aerobic exercise after 6pm;
  • Anxiety-provoking activities like reading stimulating materials, checking financial reports, watching the news, or paying bills before going to bed;
  • Repeated negative judgments about being unable to sleep, instead use positive self-talk phrases about your ability to relax and fall asleep: “I can fall asleep.” “I can relax.”

Plan your sleep

Believe it or not, planning your sleep can have surprising benefits. You can plan your sleep by following these tips:

  • Plan for 8-9 hours in bed; begin prepping for bedtime 30 minutes beforehand
  • Try to sleep and wake up same time each day to train your biological clock
  • Avoid getting in bed after 11pm, late-hour sleep is not as helpful as earlier sleep
  • Avoid late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you’re ill or quite sleep-deprived
  • Take a hot salt/soda aromatherapy bath. Raising your body temperature before bed helps induce sleep. A hot bath also relaxes muscles.

Strategies to address issues like trouble falling asleep or staying asleep include:

  • Don’t stay in bed more than 20-30 minutes trying to fall asleep. Leave your bedroom and go to another room, read or do relaxation techniques;
  • Try reading a good book under low light, keep gadgets in night-time setting;
  • Put a dark covering over your eyes;
  • Turn down the light in the bathroom 15 minutes before going to bed;
  • Decrease irritating noises in your space by closing windows or using earplugs;
  • Turn off noisy appliances;
  • Make sure your sleeping area is not too hot or too cold
  • Avoid sleeping near electromagnetic fields like electrical outlets, clock radios, stereos, cell phones, and computers;
  • Consider using soft pillow and clean bed linen. Also, a quality air filter which removes toxic airborne particles may help those with sleep apnea, allergic rhinitis and asthma, and even lead to less congestion when waking up.

Life is precious; don’t let stress or deadlines run the show

Adopt some of the abovementioned habits, strategies and activities and see if it works for you. Also, be intentional and open. Take back a few minutes a day of your life, balance your emotions, and soon your health and wellness — the prime preconditions for a good night’s sleep — will follow.

Relax!! Get some rest and grab some z’s!

Puja Karnani Agarwal is a functional medicine practitioner, certified human performance nutritionist, and a REPS-certified Level-4 trainer. She is on Instagram @pujakarnaniagarwalofficial and her website

Puja Karnani Agarwal is a functional medicine practitioner, certified human performance nutritionist, and a REPS-certified Level-4 trainer. She is on Instagram @pujakarnaniagarwalofficial and her website is

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