Improve performance with better sleep Posted by Justine Clarabut on 14 March, 2018

Stimulate thinking and discussion around sleep and make positive steps to improve performance and productivity…

World Sleep Day is intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving and aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders”

There are so many factors that affect our sleep; not getting enough of the right sleep can be detrimental to our health – sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on work performance as employees have more difficulty concentrating, learning and communicating, which in turn, can also affect working relationships

“Poor sleepers are twice as likely to struggle to be productive, 3 times more likely to struggle to concentrate and 7 times more likely to feel helpless” Great British Sleep Survey, 2012 

A restless night results in reduced cognitive function heightened emotional reactions and lowered immunity.  Sleep loss limits the body’s ability to build muscle, makes injury more likely at work or during exercise and has been found to interfere with hunger hormones which can fuel food cravings of the wrong type of foods that contain high levels of sugar and fat!  A lack of sleep has even been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis and cancer.

Poor nutrition can also have a negative impact with reduced energy levels, irritability and difficulty in keeping focused.   Not only can a poor diet affect performance, but it also plays an important role in helping get a good night’s sleep!  So together,  inadequate sleep and a poor diet are not a good combination and also increases the risk of more serious health conditions!

According to research at the Taipei Medical University in 2011, eating kiwi fruit before bed helps deep sleep. Kiwis have high levels of serotonin, which is critical to sleep – but what other foods could help?

Melatonin – the sleep hormone!

“Foods that are high in tryptophan and vitamin B6 will help you make melatonin, the sleep hormone,” says Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and author of Fast Asleep, Wide AwakeFish are rich in tryptophan, a natural sedative, with shrimp, cod, tuna and halibut having the highest levels.  Turkey, chicken, beans, lentils, cheese, eggs, whole grains, nuts, seeds and tofu are also great too!  Cherries, cherry juice and oats actually contain melatonin so are great to stock up on if you want to improve your sleep!

Relax your body and mind..

“Foods that are high in potassium and magnesium help to relax the muscles because a lot of people suffer from things such as restless legs,” says Ramlakhan.  Good sources of magnesium include whole grains, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, potatoes, apricots and milk. Chamomile, ginger, and peppermint tea are also good to help you relax before bedtime.

Foods to stay away from..

Complex carbohydrates such as white bread, refined pasta, and foods high in sugar and fat can reduce serotonin levels and so affect your sleep.  Avoid too much tea, coffee, energy drinks and colas, all high in caffeine which interferes with the process of falling asleep and also prevents deep sleep. Overindulging in alcohol too may help you to fall asleep but it can disrupt your sleep during the night.

It can also make a difference when you eat!

“A lot of people feel sleepy after a big meal because they overeat and the rate of change in their blood sugar stimulates the insulin response which sedates them,” says Ramlakhan.. “It’s not just what you eat, it’s also your patterns of eating that make a difference.  Make sure you eat breakfast – it stabilises blood sugar and minimises your production of adrenaline.”  It will help produce melatonin later on.   Try not to eat a large meal too close to bedtime, as while you sleep, your body and digestive system should be resting, not digesting food.

So looking at your diet and when you eat seems to be a great starting point in getting those vital zzzz’s to keep you energised, focused and productive during your working day!

Wellbeing People look at Sleeping for Success in an informative workshop that introduces techniques and healthy habits to promote more restful and restorative sleep (even if limited) and ways to increase energy levels after a sleepless night. We also look at the impact food can have on motivation, concentration and mood; the aim is to help people establish long-term healthy eating habits which not only improve performance and productivity but also promote a healthy and happy lifestyle.

References and further reading:

Blogs on Sleep