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Food & Health News

The Mediterranean Diet Could Help You Sleep Better

Based on new research, the Mediterranean diet could be just the right lifestyle change to help you achieve better, more restful sleep.

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Are you longing for one solid night of deep, wholly restful sleep? You aren’t alone – nearly everyone could benefit from a better night’s sleep. Even just one sleepless night filled with tossing and turning leads to exhaustion and effects like increased hunger and a slower metabolism. But getting a good night’s rest could be as simple as giving the Mediterranean diet a try.

Following the principles of the Mediterranean diet could help you enjoy more restful, restorative sleep, and it all has to do with the foods you’re eating. Here’s what recent research is saying about this all-around healthy lifestyle and how it plays a role in helping you achieve sound shut-eye.

Sleepless nights wreak havoc on your eating habits

You already know that you should get seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night. But one in three adults are still coming up short on sleep, according to the CDC.

A lack of sleep – or a lack of restful sleep – can lead you to struggle with your weight and your healthy eating habits. Research shows that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more calories each day; in the study, participants who slept for just four hours ate 300 more calories in a single day compared to those who got a whole nine hours of rest. Sleep deprivation disrupts your hormones, specifically ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that affect your appetite.

Even slight sleep deprivation can have a noticeable and significant impact on your well-being and your food choices. You may get more sleep yet wake up feeling less than well-rested. Poor sleep quality is linked to behavioral changes like eating more food and choosing lower-quality foods to eat.

But, if you’re following the Mediterranean diet, you may have an advantage. In addition to all of the longevity and heart health benefits this clean diet offers, research is also pointing towards a connection to better sleep.

Sticking to the Mediterranean diet can lessen insomnia

The Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and other lean protein, beans, nuts and seeds. It’s a way of eating – and living – that can have a positive effect on everything from your metal health to the body’s aging process to heart health.

Sticking with the Mediterranean diet can also offer benefits when it comes to sleep. Specifically, research suggests that there’s a connection between this diet and both the duration of your sleep and symptoms of insomnia.

When study participants followed the Mediterranean diet, researchers discovered that they were more likely to sleep longer and get adequately restful sleep each night. Those same participants also reported experiencing fewer insomnia symptoms, indicating they found it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

While this research doesn’t draw any direct connections between specific elements of the Mediterranean diet and sleep, it’s clear that there’s something beneficial happening. It can help those who follow its principles sleep better each night, and that may be the result of the foods themselves.

We know that high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods and red meats can cause inflammation. And constant, chronic inflammation can be disruptive to sleep. Because the Mediterranean diet excludes or limits these foods significantly, this may be the key to its positive effect on sleep.

The Mediterranean diet offers the right sleep hormones

There’s one more way the Mediterranean diet can aid and improve your sleep. When you follow this diet, you’ll be eating foods that are rich in sleep hormones – meaning you’re setting yourself up for a good night’s rest with each meal.

Some of the central foods within the Mediterranean diet contain melatonin, serotonin, and vitamin D. These are all hormones that play a role in sleep. Melatonin helps you fall asleep, while serotonin plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle. Vitamin D affects your sleep quality. So, if you’re eating a good amount of these particular hormones, you’re more likely to sleep easier and better.

Fish and seafood are key within the Mediterranean diet, and these foods are rich in just the right sleep hormones. Their omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are also beneficial, both of which help regulate serotonin within the body. Research suggests that tart cherry juice, kiwi fruit and even milk (in moderation, of course) can offer similar benefits.

Incorporate these particular foods into your meals and snacks as you follow the guidelines of the Mediterranean diet, and you may notice a change in your sleep.

Start with small changes to begin reaping big benefits

It’s no secret that the Mediterranean diet holds quite a lot of potential for your health. But for those who’ve been struggling to get good, restful sleep, this diet offers just the right combination of nutrients and hormones.

Whether you’re new to the Mediterranean diet or already an expert, there are ways to make little tweaks to what you’re eating. Even small changes can offer big potential sleep benefits. Choosing fish over other lean proteins, for example, is one way to take in more sleep hormones. Limiting or eliminating red meat can make inflammation and the disruptive sleep it causes less common.

You can also incorporate more of the research-backed sleep-helping foods of the Mediterranean diet a try. Check out the following ideas, which feature good-for-sleep ingredients: