High fiber intake can cure insomnia, a recent study featured in the latest edition of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has revealed.
Research was led by Marie Pierre St-One, assistant professor of medicine at New York’s Institute of Human Nutrition (affiliated with Columbia University Medical Center).
The sample size was relatively small, consisting in just 26 adult volunteers, aged 20 to 45, with a normal body mass index.
Experts investigated resting cycles and correlated them with the participants’ daily food intake, during a clinical trial, which unfolded in a laboratory for 5 consecutive nights.
The polysomnography test, more commonly known as a sleep study, required volunteers to opt for food and drinks of their own liking on a specific day.
In contrast, on 3 other days the subjects had to follow a diet recommended by a nutritionist, who had designed a menu taking into account the impact of certain foods on sleep quality.
It was determined that when being prescribed a specific meal plan, individuals managed to doze off much faster than when they ate whatever they wanted.
More precisely, in the absence of a carefully selected diet, they needed around 29 minutes in order to sleep, whereas when a nutritionist assisted them in choosing specific slumber-inducing foods they were able to drift off in approximately 17 minutes.
As study authors explain, certain food items can promote sleep, whereas others can defer it. For instance, having a high fiber intake can result in experiencing slow-wave sleep, commonly known as deep sleep.
This is the third stage of the non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep cycle, and during this period of rest the body can rejuvenate itself, as neurons get to recover and new memories can accumulate and be safely stored.
Apparently, insomnia patients seldom get to enter this dreamless, slow-wave sleep phase, and that is why their cognitive abilities aren’t sometimes up to par, but high fiber intake seems to be able to counter these harmful effects.
Scientists have also identified specific food that can promote deep sleep, thus aiding night owls and others who experience various sleep disorders.
For instance, unprocessed grains such as barley, oatmeal and bulgur can be beneficial because of their high content of magnesium.
Chickpeas are also a worthwhile choice, because consuming them can result in a high fiber intake, and also supplies a hefty dose of vitamin B6, which allows the body to release melatonin.
This hormone can regulate the sleep-wake cycle, permitting individuals to fall asleep more easily, and to overcome insomnia, fragmented sleep, and other similar problems.
In contrast, foods that are rich in sugar and saturated fat have the opposite effect, making deep sleep more improbable and causing people to have difficulty dozing off.
According to researchers, a single day when volunteers consumed low amounts of fiber, opting for fatty foods instead, was enough to significantly disrupt sleep patterns.
While this isn’t the first time that a study has suggested that high fiber intake can combat sleep disorders, this new pilot trial is still important because it reveals the effects of adopting a controlled diet, created by a nutritionist, against those that result from aimlessly giving in to food cravings.
Given the fact that inadequate rest has been previously linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure etc., it seems imperative for people to follow dietary guidelines more carefully, by renouncing fatty and sugary foods and instead opting for more fruits, veggies and whole grains.
In addition, Dr. Nathaniel Watson, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recommends switching from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one, given that regular physical exercise can also foster good sleep.
Image Source: Pixabay