Food for Sleep, Mental Health, and Relaxation

lack of sleep

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” – Plato

In today’s world, whether as a day worker, shift worker, student, or entrepreneur, we have our share of numbing lack of sleep, frustrating brain fog, and gut-wrenching stress.  Our days get out of sync. We want to give our all and be fully engaged with our tasks and relationships. But in this state, we look at the clock, zone out, and don’t want to be bothered. We have too many energy drinks, vending machine snacks, and coffee to try to at best dull the cravings, headaches, and anxiety for a while. More likely, the symptoms linger on as if they were always a part of our day-to-day routines.

The good news: there are natural things we can now do to help sustainably mitigate all three situations. We can function at our highest potential each week. No pills or therapy necessary. 

Triad: Sleep, mental functioning, and stress reduction

The first thing to realize is just how interrelated the three problems of fatigue, mental performance, and stress are. For instance, in a stress intervention program, results showed increased sleep and better mental health. “The improvement of stress reactivity resulting from a work stress intervention was effective and generally long-lasting in preventing mental health and sleep problems.” [1] Conversely, if stress is left unchecked, both sleep and mental performance suffer. Regarding sleep, “the pattern of results for subjects prone to a high level of trait-anxiety suggested that stress and sleep are related to each other in a bidirectional way: increased anxiety is associated to poor sleep and stress reduction improves both anxiety and sleep.” [2] Looking at mental functioning, it’s clear that “exposure to high or very high stress acutely (whether elicited by the cognitive task or experienced before being trained or tested in the task) or chronically impairs the formation of explicit memories.” [3] Finally, lack of sleep also contributes to poor mental performance. “Studies to date suggest that sufficient quantity and quality of sleep are required for many aspects of amnestic and non-amnestic cognition, most notably executive attention, working memory and higher cognitive functions.” [4] In your own life, you may have experienced firsthand some or most of these cascading effects. The anxiety from a pending work deadline or personal issue keeps your thoughts racing at night so you can’t fall asleep, which then has you unable to think clearly about resolving that problem in the morning because you didn’t get enough sleep. Overwhelming feelings then creep up the next night, because the thoughts of finishing another task is there, and you know if you don’t get sleep, you’ll not be able to fully resolve the issue again. This, then puts more stress on having to fall asleep, which of course makes it that much more likely you won’t fall asleep.

If we can manage just one aspect of this triad, then, the other parts will also improve. Managing all three parts, furthermore, can completely change a lifestyle. Having a consistent full-night’s sleep, remaining calm and collected when faced with crises, and effectively making all important decisions, are all within reach!

In this three-part series, we’ll explore how. Specifically, we will see how consuming just a handful of ingredients can help us feel less fatigued, foggy, and stressed. What’s more: these functional foods you may already have in your pantry!

Click below to explore how these foods work to help us take back control of our hectic lives.

Food is one of many things that can help reshape our lives. What other practices or products do you use to help relax, sleep, and think well? Let us know in the comments below.

References

[1] Herr, Raphael, Amira Barrech, Natalie Riedel, Harald Gündel, Peter Angerer, and Jian Li. "Long-Term Effectiveness of Stress Management at Work: Effects of the Changes in Perceived Stress Reactivity on Mental Health and Sleep Problems Seven Years Later." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15, no. 2 (2018): 255. doi:10.3390/ijerph15020255. P. 255.

[2] Trousselard, Marion, Dominique Steiler, Angelique Lebreton, Pascal Van Beers, Catherine Drogout, Josiane Denis, Mounir Chennaoui, and Frédéric Canini. "Stress Management Based on Trait-Anxiety Levels and Sleep Quality in Middle-Aged Employees Confronted with Psychosocial Chronic Stress." Psychology 05, no. 01 (2014): 78-89. doi:10.4236/psych.2014.51013. p. 78.

[3] Sandi, Carmen. "Stress and Cognition." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science 4, no. 3 (2013): 245-61. doi:10.1002/wcs.1222. p. 245.

[4] Miller, Michelle A., Hayley Wright, Josie Hough, and Francesco P. Cappuccio. "Sleep and Cognition." Sleep and Its Disorders Affect Society, 2014. doi:10.5772/58735. p. 16.