Sleep: it has a number of vital functions to ensure good health and has a big role to play in employee health and safety. It recharges your immune system, repairs damage done to your body and helps you process, sort and store everything you have learnt, felt or experienced during the day. Poor sleep can lead to low levels concentration and alertness at work, more sick days due to poor health (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, headaches), impaired decision making and slow reflexes.
What does nutrition have to do with it? Knowing what and when you eat can promote or restrict sleep.
Eating too much or too little can disrupt your sleep. A light snack at bedtime can promote sleep, but too much food can cause digestive discomfort that leads to wakefulness.
Try to avoid eating late at night. Lying down with a full stomach puts you at a gravitational disadvantage, encouraging acids and gastric juices to flow up into the oesophagus, causing uncomfortable heartburn that will make sleep more challenging.
Alcohol is a double-edged sword. Small amounts of alcohol can help you fall asleep. However, as the body metabolises the alcohol, sleep may become interrupted. Alcohol can worsen insomnia and also impair rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (the time when the body is in its restorative phase). It can also dehydrate you, leaving you tired the next day.
Caffeine can disturb sleep. Any food or beverage that contains caffeine can disturb sleep, however this is not true for everyone. Research has shown that older adults who suffer from insomnia report higher caffeine intakes. If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid it in the afternoon and evening.
Forget the fat. If you consume a high-fat meal in the evening or eat foods that you have found cause you indigestion and heartburn, your sleep can be disturbed and restless.
Milk and honey promote sleep. Milk contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is among the natural dietary sleep inducers. Tryptophan works by increasing the amount of serotonin, a natural sedative, in the brain. This is why so many folk remedies include warm milk with a teaspoonful of honey, a simple sugar.
To find out more about how nutrition can impact your sleep and fatigue levels at your workplace, contact us today to discuss what workplace health solutions would be best suited for your needs.