Adapted from our friends at Fast-Asleep – click here to read the original!
We can all struggle to sleep sometimes and occasionally it’s just hard to get into a consistent sleep pattern, and even harder to keep it! Did you know the amount and regularity of rest can directly influence our mental wellbeing? If you’re struggling to rest at night, changes to your diet might just help. Gut health and food science are always finding new ways to support the body’s natural processes, and there is growing evidence to suggest that the nutrients commonly found in Mediterranean diets could help to improve your sleep! Due to the gut’s communication with the brain - the ‘gut-brain axis’ as it’s known - the nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet could help to support physical health, as well as brain function, and both play a key role in getting a restful night’s sleep!
What is included in a Mediterranean diet?
Typically, the traditional Mediterranean diet involves copious amounts of nuts, oily fish, fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and olive oil. It could also include traditional Greek favourites, such as full-fat yoghurt and cheese, and perhaps a glass or two of red wine with your evening meal. Sadly, for those with a sweet tooth, a Mediterranean diet doesn’t usually include cakes, biscuits or highly processed food.
What makes a Mediterranean diet beneficial to health?
Research has uncovered some of the ways that this diet can reduce the risk of heart attack1 or stroke, as well as reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and getting breast cancer. However, it can also help improve the quality of your sleep! Studies have shown that those who follow the principles of the Mediterranean diet tend to enjoy longer and more restful period of sleep than those eating a more typical Western diet2 3 4.
When you look at the results of consumption studies, it can be difficult to separate the impact of diet from other possible contributing factors, but a very good study by Cornel University in New York5 closely monitored people in a sleep laboratory. The study found that participants had lighter, more disrupted sleep when they ate a ‘junk food’ diet of saturated fat, carbohydrates and sugar. Conversely, they slept much better when they ate meals rich in protein and fibre that are typical of the Mediterranean diet. As with many areas of gut health, the precise mechanisms of action behind this are yet to be uncovered. One potential reason could be that foods such as olive oil, oily fish, legumes and vegetables are known to contain anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress. You’ll find delicious recipes and a lot more support to help implement a healthy low-carb Mediterranean lifestyle at www.thefast800.com.
Five key nutritious foods to boost the Mediterranean sleep-boosting factors in your diet:
- Olive oil
- Oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
- Legumes (beans, pulses and lentils)
- Leafy green vegetables
Can gut bacteria aid restful sleep?
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria that form what is known as your microbiome. These microbes are understood to play a part in boosting our mental and physical health, and recent studies show a healthy population of ‘good’ gut bacteria is an effective aid to good sleep6.
A Mediterranean diet is a great way to help boost levels of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Fibre is the preferred fuel source for these good bacteria, enabling them in turn produce chemicals that have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety; similar to the chemical compounds or stress hormones that the brain produces to reduce feelings of anxiety. Stress and anxiety can be one of the main reasons people fall into poor sleeping habits and anything that can improve mood and cognition is likely to be equally good for sleep. The gut plays many roles in the body and influences or controls a lot of the natural processes that we take for granted. A diverse microbiome that features plentiful amounts of the ‘good bacteria’ our gut needs could be crucial to helping support great sleep health.
Two ways to support a healthy gut through diet:
- Try fermented foods – this involves live bacterial cultures or yeast that you ingest directly into your intestine to enrich your gut microbiome. Great examples include live yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut and kimchi.
- Dietary fibre – non-digestible plant fibre, available through foods or as a supplement, acts like fertiliser to encourage the growth and activity of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. Naturally occurring sources include beans and lentils, onions, leeks and garlic, wholegrains, oats, flaxseeds, fruit and seaweed.
- Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet
- Mediterranean Diet Pattern and Sleep Duration and Insomnia Symptoms in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis
- Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet Is Associated With Better Sleep Quality in Italian Adults
- Mediterranean diet pattern and sleep duration and insomnia symptoms in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis
- Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep
- Gut Microbiome Diversity Is Associated With Sleep Physiology in Humans
Found this interesting? Here are some more posts relating to...
Bimuno has been featured in Dr Michael Mosley’s BBC programme ‘The Truth About Sleep’ and his latest book ‘Fast Asleep’. Read more about the fascinating link between gut health and sleep.
Topics relating to sleep
Looking to support the body’s natural functions? Your gut could hold the key! Studies show that gut health can influence the immune system, ment...
Because gut health plays such a key role in our bodies, what we put into it can have a big impact. There is a large body of evidence that highli...
Health and Wellbeing
We all know about some of the health challenges in how we consume and digest food, but did you know that your gut can have an influence on other...