Bedtime Cherry Smoothie
Sleep is often thought of as a passive and withdrawn act. But in actuality it is a complex physiological state in which the body is very active in building, repairing, and organizing. While asleep the immune system’s activity is at its highest. During this time there is an increased production of proteins involved in recognizing and destroying viruses and bacteria. Individuals that do not get adequate rest have been found to have a decreased ability to fight infection and are more susceptible to illness. Sleep’s effects are not limited to immune function either. Sleep-dependent activity has also been linked with calcium retention, insulin sensitivity, and muscle fiber growth. Individuals that suffer from chronic insomnia have been found to have increased risk for osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. The effects of sleep are far reaching and undeniably play a significant role in overall health. As with everything involving the body, sleep is complicated and heavily influenced by diet. Several behavioral and dietary choices can aid in the onset of sleep by providing nutrients that allow for the natural progression of sleep onset. Whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, seeds, dairy and dairy alternatives supply the body with vitamins and minerals required for sleep. Tart cherries contain the sleep inducing hormone melatonin and can be included in the diet as well. These foods are also good sources of fiber, complex carbohydrates and protein which aid in blood sugar control and provides satiety (fullness). Increasing foods that are high in specific vitamins, minerals and other molecules that are directly involved in sleep onset may help to prevent insomnia. Some of the nutrients involved in the sleep pathways include calcium, tryptophan, melatonin, magnesium, fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates. Eating foods high in these nutrients may aid in better sleep as well as increase the body’s ability to fight the flu and other chronic diseases.