Effects of nutrition and physical exercise on sleep. Tips to improve sleep.

In previous articles, we explored the importance of sleep in sports performance, highlighting how adequate rest is essential for muscle recovery, mental acuity and decision making. We look at a number of factors, such as training schedules and stimulant consumption, that can significantly influence the quality and quantity of our rest.

However, to fully address the relationship between sleep and sports performance, it is essential to understand how other aspects of our lifestyle, such as nutrition and physical exercise, interact with our sleep patterns.

In this third article in our series, we dive into the fascinating world of nutrition and fitness , exploring how these two fundamental pillars of health can influence our ability to get quality, restful sleep.

Nutrition and sleep: a two-way relationship

Nutrition plays a fundamental role in our daily lives and in our ability to fall asleep and maintain quality rest. The foods we eat directly affect our circadian rhythms and the production of key neurotransmitters and hormones that regulate sleep.

The complex interaction between nutrition and sleep has been the subject of numerous scientific studies that reveal how the foods we consume directly affect our quality of sleep. At Aether we like to rely on real facts and therefore, here we present a more detailed view, backed by scientific evidence, of how certain nutrients and compounds in food can influence our sleep patterns.

  1. Tryptophan and melatonin: Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that serves as a precursor to serotonin and, later, melatonin , a sleep-regulating hormone. Research has shown that consuming foods rich in tryptophan, such as turkey, dairy, bananas, and nuts, can increase levels of serotonin and melatonin in the brain, making it easier to fall asleep and improving its quality [1].
  2. Carbohydrates and glucose: Carbohydrate intake can have a significant impact on our sleep rhythms. Complex carbohydrates, especially those with a low glycemic index, can stimulate insulin production and facilitate the entry of tryptophan into the brain, resulting in improved sleep quality [2]. On the other hand, excessive consumption of refined sugars and foods with a high glycemic index can cause fluctuations in blood glucose levels and deregulate sleep rhythms [3].
  3. Fats and omega-3 fatty acids: The composition of fatty acids in the diet can also influence sleep quality. It has been observed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, present in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, is associated with better quality and duration of sleep [4]. On the other hand, excessive consumption of saturated fats can have negative effects on sleep quality[5].
  4. Caffeine and other stimulants: As we saw in the previous article, caffeine is one of the most common stimulants that can negatively affect sleep. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, resulting in increased alertness and reduced drowsiness [6].
  5. Alcohol: Although alcohol may have an initial sedative effect, its consumption before bedtime can disrupt sleep cycles and reduce the overall quality of rest [7]. Alcohol affects melatonin production and can cause frequent nighttime awakenings, resulting in fragmented, less restful sleep.

By understanding how the composition of our diet affects our sleep patterns, we can make better decisions about our eating habits to optimize the quality and duration of our rest.

Physical exercise and sleep: a symbiotic relationship

Regular physical activity has been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep, as well as reduce the time needed to fall asleep. However, we have already seen that the timing and intensity of exercise can have different effects on our rest.

The connection between physical exercise and sleep quality is an important object of scientific research, revealing a bidirectional relationship between both activities. Here we explore in detail how exercise affects our sleep patterns and how this can optimize our health and well-being.

  1. Impact of exercise on sleep quality: Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise is associated with improved sleep quality and duration. Physical activity increases sleep efficiency, meaning we spend more time in deep, restful sleep phases [8]. This improvement in sleep quality translates into a greater feeling of rest and recovery when you wake up.
  2. Timing and type of exercise: The timing and intensity of exercise can influence its impact on sleep. Exercise performed in the morning or during the day has been found to be associated with faster falling asleep at night. This is partly because physical activity during the day helps regulate our circadian rhythms and increases body temperature, two factors that promote nighttime sleep [9].
  3. Effects of nighttime exercise: Although vigorous exercise performed just before bed can have benefits for overall health, it can have negative effects on sleep quality. Intense exercise increases arousal and activation of the nervous system , which can make it difficult to fall asleep and reduce rest efficiency [10].
  4. Reduction in stress and anxiety: Regular physical exercise is associated with a significant reduction in stress and anxiety levels, two factors that can interfere with sleep quality. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that generate feelings of well-being and reduce the perception of pain, which contributes to a state of relaxation that facilitates sleep [11].

By understanding how physical exercise influences our sleep patterns, we can take advantage of this symbiotic relationship to improve our quality of life and overall well-being.

Tips to improve sleep

At Aether we are fans of habits and that is why we believe that it is essential to adopt practices and habits that promote a restful rest. Below we present some practical tips to improve the quality and duration of sleep, which will contribute to better recovery, mental acuity and performance in sports and daily life.

  1. Establish a consistent sleep routine: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to help regulate your circadian rhythm. Just as consistency is essential in training, maintaining a routine in your sleep schedule can improve the quality of your rest and promote more restful sleep.
  2. Create an environment conducive to sleep: Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet to promote restful sleep. Consider using earplugs or eye masks if necessary. Also, make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and suitable for your sleeping position.
  3. Practice relaxation techniques: Incorporate practices such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga before bed to reduce stress and promote a state of relaxation. These techniques can help calm the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep and improving the quality of rest.
  4. Limit caffeine consumption: Avoid caffeine consumption in the hours before bedtime, as it can interfere with the quality of sleep. Caffeine can remain in the body for hours and affect the ability to fall asleep.
  5. Turn off electronic devices: Avoid using electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers at least one hour before bedtime, as the blue light emitted by these devices can alter circadian rhythms and make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, opt for relaxing activities like reading or listening to soft music to prepare your body and mind for sleep.
  6. Consult a healthcare professional: If you experience chronic sleep problems, consider consulting a doctor or sleep specialist for appropriate guidance and treatment. A healthcare professional can help you identify the underlying causes of your sleep problems and provide you with specific strategies to improve your rest.

In conclusion, to reach our maximum potential both in sports and in our daily lives, it is crucial to recognize the importance of sleep and adopt practices that promote it. Both balanced nutrition and regular physical exercise are fundamental pillars that influence our ability to obtain a restful and quality rest. By implementing the advice provided and cultivating healthy habits , we can optimize our recovery, mental acuity and performance , leading a fuller, more satisfying life and achieving our best version.

At Aether we hope that with this series of articles related to sleep and rest you can gain greater knowledge about the importance and impact they have on our well-being and, above all, on our path to our best version. If you have any suggestions or questions, do not hesitate to contact us at contact@aetheroutfitters.com .

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  1. Bravo, R., Matito, S., Cubero, J., Paredes, SD, Franco, L., Rivero, M., ... & Rodríguez, AB (2013). Tryptophan-enriched cereal intake improves nocturnal sleep, melatonin, serotonin, and total antioxidant capacity levels and mood in elderly humans. Age, 35(4), 1277-1285.
  2. Afaghi, A., O'Connor, H., & Chow, C. M. (2007). High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(2), 426-430.
  3. St-Onge, M.P., Roberts, A.L., Chen, J., Kelleman, M., O'Keeffe, M., RoyChoudhury, A., & Jones, P.J. (2016). Short sleep duration increases energy intakes but does not change energy expenditure in normal-weight individuals. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 103(4), 869-874.
  4. Del Brutto, OH, Mera, RM, Del Brutto, VJ, Maestre, GE, Gardener, H., & Zambrano, M. (2016). Dietary fish intake and sleep quality: a population-based study. Sleep Medicine, 17, 126-128.
  5. St-Onge, M.P., Roberts, A.L., Chen, J., Kelleman, M., O'Keeffe, M., RoyChoudhury, A., & Jones, P.J. (2016). Short sleep duration increases energy intakes but does not change energy expenditure in normal-weight individuals. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 103(4), 869-874.
  6. McLellan, T.M., Caldwell, J.A., & Lieberman, H.R. (2016). A review of caffeine's effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 71, 294-312.
  7. Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. (2001). Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use. Alcohol Research and Health, 25(2), 101-109.
  8. Kredlow, MA, Capozzoli, MC, Hearon, BA, Calkins, AW, & Otto, MW (2015). The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38(3), 427-449.
  9. Youngstedt, S. D. (2005). Effects of exercise on sleep. Clinics in sports medicine, 24(2), 355-365.
  10. Kubitz, K.A., Landers, D.M., Petruzzello, S.J., & Han, M. (1996). The effects of acute and chronic exercise on sleep: a meta-analytic review. Sports Medicine, 21(4), 277-291.
  11. Salmon, P. (2001). Effects of physical exercise on anxiety, depression, and sensitivity to stress: a unifying theory. Clinical Psychology Review, 21(1), 33-61.
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