Thursday, Dec. 01, 2022|
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I watch my grandchildren sleep through the night, not getting up once, and I envy them.
Not only do I get up a couple of times, but oftentimes I have difficulty falling back to sleep. I got up last night at 3 a.m. and could not fall back to sleep so I went into the kitchen and cooked and baked.
The number of hours we sleep at night isn’t as important as the length of our REM or rapid eye movement, which is the last stage of sleep.
Stage one is when you are nodding off, brain activity begins to slow down, your muscles are relaxed, and you may twitch. This first stage lasts for just a few minutes.
Stage two occurs when your breathing, heart rate, body temperature all drop and you enter a slightly deeper stage of sleep. This phase lasts about 25 minutes. Stage two is where we spend more time than any of the other stages.
Stage three is also known as slow-wave sleep and is the deepest stage of sleep. During this stage, our tissues, bones, and muscles are built and repaired, and our immune system is strengthened. This stage lasts 20 to 40 minutes.
Stage four is the REM or rapid eye movement, when your brain activity, heart rate and blood pressure pick up almost to the same levels as when you are awake.
Although your eyes are in rapid motion, your muscles are temporarily paralyzed. This is when you dream and lasts between 10 to 60 minutes. This stage is critical for cognitive functions like memory, learning and creativity.
Melatonin is found in foods and is a hormone that is produced naturally in the brain’s pineal gland. It is our internal timekeeper that tells us when it is time to go to sleep and wake up. That pineal gland makes melatonin from an amino acid called tryptophan. If that sounds familiar, that Thanksgiving turkey contains it and is blamed for being sleepy after your huge feast. Other foods that contain melatonin include tomatoes, oats, and milk. Remember when your mom made you warm milk when you couldn’t sleep? That is the science behind it.
But did you know that researchers found that larger amounts of melatonin were found in cow’s milk when they were milked at night?
As we age, changes occur in our circadian rhythms and our levels of melatonin naturally decline. This is why eating the right foods is especially important for older adults, especially because it has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune bolstering properties.
It was found that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have higher levels of melatonin in their bodies and that those who eat a Mediterranean diet sleep better.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve sleep quality and duration and are found in salmon, tuna, sardines, avocados, walnuts, flax and chia seeds.
Vitamin D is one of the circadian pacemakers and keeps your sleep-wake cycles aligned, however, about 40% of American adults are deficient in it. A study of 9,300 participants in a journal, Nutrients, found that low blood serum levels of vitamin D, or less than 20 ng/ml, were experiencing poor sleep, with fewer hours and daytime drowsiness. Another study published in the journal Sleep, with 3,000 men, showed that participants with lower levels of vitamin D had poorer quality and quantity of sleep. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish like hamachi and salmon, fortified cereal and dairy products. We are lucky to live in Hawaii and get our liquid sunshine of vitamin D.
Between 50 to 90% of our vitamin D comes from UV exposure, but 15 to 20 minutes is all we need to cause your body to produce the vitamin D you need.
Magnesium calms you down and relaxes you, allowing the natural sleep process to take place. Nuts, seeds, spinach, edamame, black beans, potatoes, yogurt, bananas and fortified breakfast cereals are all good sources of magnesium.
Iron deficiency can throw off your sleeping patterns by more wakings and shorter sleep, as well as causing restless leg syndrome, which occurs at night. Foods rich in iron include spinach, oysters, tofu, sardines, legumes such as lentils, white beans and chickpeas, lean beef and chicken and fortified cereals.
A study showed that sleepy people have hunger hormones that encourage overeating and can consume an extra 178 calories per day.
Basically, if you eat well, you may be able to sleep well and improve your overall health, so sweet dreams and good night!
Hawaii Community College’s culinary students are back from spring break and are ready to serve you at The Cafeteria and Bamboo Hale. Check the menu online at:
Bamboo Hale: http://www.hawaii.hawaii.edu/bamboo-hale
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