Does sleep matter?
Sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. Skipping sleep can be harmful; you can look bad, you may feel moody and you perform poorly. Sleepiness can make it hard to get along with your family and friends and hurt your scores on school exams, on the court or on the field. When you do not get enough sleep, you are more likely to have an accident, injury and/or illness.
Facts:
• Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen.

• Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.
Consequences:
Not getting enough sleep or having sleep difficulties can:
• Limit your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget important information like names, numbers, your homework or a date with a special person in your life

• Make you more prone to pimples. Lack of sleep can contribute to acne and other skin problems

• Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behaviour such as yelling at your friends or being impatient with your teachers or family members

• Cause you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and fried foods that lead to weight gain. Tiredness drives our hunger hormone.

• Contribute to illness or not using equipment safely.

The Sleep and Diet Link:
A good night’s sleep is the best food for the brain. Your body rewards you when you create healthy habits such as regular healthy meal times and snacks.
Lack of quality sleep affects the production of hormones associated with hunger – ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin signals the brain that we are hungry and that ‘it is time to eat’ whereas leptin signals the brain ‘when you are full’.
Insufficient sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin and leptin that, in turn, leads to overeating and weight gain. Sleep deprivation also affects the production of insulin, a hormone that aids cells to take in glucose and fat to be used for the body’s energy needs, resulting in weight gain.

Dietary tips for better sleep:
• Go low on alcohol and caffeine
Restrict your alcohol and coffee intake to 1-2 cups a day; take it before late evenings. Both, if taken in excess, hinder the normal sleep cycle. Caffeine should ideally be taken before midday if at all.
• NO to sugary sweets, snacks and fizzy drinks
Sweets, chocolate, fizzy/sugary drinks and over eating are things that can prevent you from getting the wonderful sleep you deserve!
• Drink milk
A glass of warm milk at bed time sets a soothing tone to your sleep. The calcium and magnesium content of milk act as sleep inducers. Two to three servings of low fat/non-fat milk a day in your diet would suffice.
• YES to Complex carbohydrates
Try to include a third of your plate as whole grains and high fibre foods such as brown rice, pasta, quinoa, new potatoes or bread and crackers in your evening meal. These foods keep your serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter with a sleep regulation role) in check and therefore promotes sleep.
• Eat your fish
Include lean proteins like low-fat cheese, chicken (without skin) and fish (anchovies, salmon) in your daily diet. Do not go at night for deep-fried/high-fat versions, which take more time to digest keeping you awake.
• Go for B vitamins!
Poultry, turkey, fish and fruit like bananas are pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 rich. If they are added to your diet, they help you sleep faster. Niacin (Vitamin B3), found in beets, peanuts and poultry, also aids your going to sleep by improving the sleep duration.
• Water your system
Water keeps our system hydrated, helps burn calories and keeps the brain functioning at its peak while you are asleep. Drinking 2-2.5 litres of water, spaced throughout the day, can help you meet your daily fluid needs and thus prevent you from daytime fatigue and dehydration. Before bedtime, DO drink a glass of water to stay hydrated throughout the night.
• Aim for smaller portions with variety
Bring in more variety onto your plate by adding different nutrient sources of foods and also by experimenting with ways of healthy cooking. Avoid stuffing yourself with heavier meals, especially before bedtime.
• Enjoy a snack just before bed if you have problems waking in the night

Other factors influencing sleep:
• Exercise
People who follow regular workouts are in a better mood and feel less stressed during the day both at workplace and at school. They usually obtain quality sleep at night. Developing a good exercise routine also helps us fight many sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia (sleeplessness) to a better extent.
• Sunlight
Waking up to the sun’s rays has its advantages. The natural light helps set in mental alertness and also keeps your body’s internal biological clock humming smoothly. Try eating your breakfast outside or having a quick walk around the block on rising. Studies show an adverse association between lack of good sleep quality and exposure to artificial lights inside workplaces/homes, particularly during late evenings.
• Stress
Stress and sleep go hand in hand. In order to minimize your stress levels, you require sound sleep. When you overthink and become anxious at night about the next day’s plans, you are disrupting your sleep. Adopt some short breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to keep your stress levels well within control.
Try the 3,4,5 breath, in for 3, hold for 4 and out for 5, this calms the nervous system inducing a relaxation response. You can use this to get to sleep, if you wake in the night or during exams or when you are feeling anxious.
Other things that can really help:
Epsom Salt Baths – these contact the mineral magnesium which helps us relax and keep calm. Soak in a warm bath for 20 mins after adding 2 mug fulls of Epsom salts to the water.
Lavender oil – put a few drops of lavender oil in your bath or on your pillow.
Camomile or sleepy time tea – enjoy a small cup or mug of one of the teas before bed to help you relax and unwind
Conclusion:
Make your bedtime a priority just like you plan any other daily activity. It is important for you to get into a ‘Sleep Mode’ well before you sleep. Keep away your laptops, cell phones and distracting light sources, which may keep your brain active for long before you get into your ‘Sleep Mode’.
Keep those emotional conversations out of your bedroom. Create thus a peaceful, dark and relaxing environment in your bedroom before you sleep. Now head off and enjoy a good nights sleep.
References:
http://www.journalsleep.org/pdf/abstractbook2008.pdf
http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/

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