We spend about a third of our lives asleep. The issue of how sleep works is still controversial, but it is essential for the survival of all living things. According to the recommendation of the National Sleep Foundation, the need for sleep is 10-12 hours a day in children, 8-9 hours in adolescents and 7-8 hours in adults. Adequate sleep duration and quality are as important factors affecting our immune system and general health as much as healthy diet (1).
There are two types of sleep: REM (with rapid eye movement) and NREM (without rapid eye movement). REM sleep is the most restorative sleep, it varies greatly throughout the life cycle. Babies spend 50% of their total sleep in the REM form, corresponding to 25% in childhood; this remains stable and decreases further after the age of 60 (2).
When it comes to athletes, the importance of good nutrition and constant exercise is recognized. However, sleep is often ignored as a factor that can affect an athlete's performance and recovery process. Adequate and quality sleep is critical for energy, coordination, muscle development, recovery and repair, mental focus, ability to manage stress, and academic performance, especially in young athletes (3). Studies have shown that athletes have lower quality and sleep duration compared to the general population. It is thought that the reason is training times, competition, stress / anxiety, muscle pain, travel and caffeine use (4).
I have some suggestions that can improve sleep quality for you;
1) Start your day by opening your curtains
Your body has a natural alarm system known as the circadian rhythm. It affects your brain, body, and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body it's time to sleep (5). Getting plenty of sunlight during the day helps us maintain our circadian rhythm. So when it gets dark, our body knows when to fall asleep.
2) Reduce your exposure to blue light
Blue light; It is the light emitted by electronic products such as computers, telephones, televisions. In the evening, being still in the light is one of the biggest factors that prevents our body from moving according to the circadian rhythm and reduces the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin (6). For this, we should turn off our electronic devices at least 2 hours before going to sleep, and stay in the dark if possible. In the evening, if we are not going to sleep right away, you can use our electronic devices in night mode and use glasses that block blue light.
3) Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption
Caffeine, the world's most popular drug, has a wake-up effect that moderately increases alertness and reduces fatigue by stimulating the nervous system. It is reported that caffeine consumption increases with easily accessible coffee, soda and chocolates. Caffeine alters the circadian rhythm as well as waking and bed times. This may affect cognitive performance (7).
It can take up to 6-8 hours for caffeine to be eliminated from the body. Therefore, consumption of caffeinated beverages should be stopped after 4-5 pm. The maximum recommended amount of caffeine during the day is 300-400 mg (3-4 cups of coffee), although it varies according to the tolerance of the people.
The presence of alcohol and caffeine in the body prevents the release of the sleep hormone sufficiently. You may think that you can fall asleep despite consuming alcohol/coffee. Just because you're sleeping doesn't mean you're getting quality sleep. Alcohol and caffeine reduce sleep quality by dividing REM sleep (8). You should avoid alcohol and coffee consumption before going to bed, as it may cause disruption of sleep patterns.
4) Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day
In a study, it was found that participants with irregular sleep patterns and who went to bed late on weekends had poor sleep quality (9). Not surprising considering that your body's circadian rhythm works on a certain cycle, adjusting itself to sunrise and sunset.
Having sleep and wake times at the same time every day can help with long-term sleep quality (10). For this reason, you should definitely try to sleep and wake up at the same times to ensure regular and quality sleep. You looked, now you wake up without an alarm :)
5) Organize your sleep environment
It is very important for good sleep quality that the place you sleep is clean, neither too hot nor too cold, dark and quiet. Creating relaxing routines before sleep (such as taking a hot shower, meditating, brushing teeth, reading a book, etc.) can help you fall asleep more easily.
6) Exercise regularly
We know that doing moderate-intensity exercise has many benefits. One of them is to increase the quality of sleep by supporting the release of hormones in our body. In a study, it was found that exercise provides more benefits than most drugs in people suffering from severe insomnia (insomnia). Results of the study showed that exercise decreased the time to fall asleep by 55%, sleep fragmentation by 30%, and anxiety by 15%, while increasing total sleep time by 18% (11).
7) Do not consume food and liquids just before going to sleep
From 10 pm to midnight, our adrenal glands try to recharge themselves for the next day. For this, we need to be asleep in our bed after 10 pm. If our body is busy digesting the foods we eat just before going to sleep, it cannot fully reset all the systems that are the main task of sleep. Therefore, food consumption should be terminated 3-4 hours before going to sleep (12). Drinking fluid 1-2 hours before going to sleep may cause sleep disruption as it will increase urine while asleep. The interruption of sleep during the REM sleep phase prevents us from getting quality sleep.
8) Eat a diet rich in tryptophan, magnesium and omega 3
Tryptophan is an amino acid that increases the release of the hormone melatonin. Turkey meat, eggs, legumes, dairy products are foods rich in tryptophan (13).
Magnesium's role in promoting sleep is thought to be related to its ability to reduce inflammation. Additionally, it may help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep. Almonds, green leafy vegetables, legumes, dark chocolate, seafood, coconut are sources of magnesium.
Omega 3 (EPA-DPA-ALA) reduce inflammation in the body and increase the release of sleep hormones and serotonin. One study found that men who ate 300 grams of salmon three times a week for 6 months fell asleep about 10 minutes faster than men who ate chicken, beef, or pork (14). Walnuts, flax seeds, purslane and oily fish, which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, should definitely be included in the diet.
1) National Sleep Foundation, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
2) Badr MS. Essentials of Sleep Medicine. New York: Humana Press, 2012.
3) National Sleep Foundation, Do student athletes need extra sleep?
4) Samuels C. Sleep, recovery, and performance: the new frontier in high-performance athletics. Neurologic Clinics, 2008.
5) Aschoff J. Human circadian rhythms: a multioscillatory system Fed Proc,1976.
6) Figueiro MG. The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students, Neuro Endocrinol Lett, 2011.
7) Verster JC., Pandi-Perumal SR., Streiner DL. Sleep and Quality of Life in Clinical Medicine. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press., 2008.
8) Ekman AC, Ethanol inhibits melatonin secretion in healthy volunteers in a dose-dependent randomized double blind cross-over study, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 1993.
9) Giannotti F. Circadian preference, sleep and daytime behavior in adolescence, Sleep Res, 2002.
10) Dongen HP. Investigating the interaction between the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep-wake regulation for the prediction of waking neurobehavioural performance, J Sleep Res 2003.
11) Passos GS, Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia, J Clin Sleep Med 2010.
12) Wal JS, Night eating syndrome: a critical review of the literature, Clin Psychol Rev, 2012.
13) Zeng Y. Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being, Current Signal Transduction Therapy, 2014.
14) Hansen AL, Fish Consumption, Sleep, Daily Functioning, and Heart Rate Variability, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2014.