Over 50 and looking to change your diet? You might want to consider how different types of diets can affect the quality of your sleep. And we know how important sleep is to us. In fact, sleep is important to everything we do.
Some of today’s popular diets may affect the quality of our sleep when we’re over 50 because of limited carbohydrates, increase in fat, limited fiber, and potentially limiting vitamins and minerals. Some types of diets are more moderate that others, and some types of diet are easier to sustain over time.
What we do know is that macronutrients and their levels have an effect on your sleep and on the quality of your sleep.
Because sleep is healing, better rest means you’re getting better health. So, let’s take a look at sleep.
What Sleep Does for You When You’re Over 50
Why such a fuss about sleep? Because the quality of your sleep is critical for supporting optimal brain function, mood, your wellbeing and your good health.
Sleep affects every organ and every disease state. “…insufficient sleep may increase the risk of chronic disease by activating the molecular pathways that drive biological aging.” https://www.prb.org/resources/new-evidence-on-sleeps-role-in-aging-and-chronic-disease/#:~:text
In other words, a good night’s sleep will keep you young, and everything that you do will be done better with a good night’s sleep.
Even if you took a drug for a good night’s sleep, the quality of your sleep would not be on par with a good, natural sleep. In fact, it seems that drugs actually interrupt the deeper stages of sleep.
And we don’t want to interrupt sleep, particularly deep sleep, because that’s when most of the restorative work is done in brain and body.
The quality of your sleep serves the body beyond your being able to think more clearly with better focus or faster reflexes.
Tired folks are less productive and are at higher risks for accidents. Being tired brings down your good mood turning you into a Grumpy Gus. Since we’re lobbed into the grumpy category as we mature, let’s not increase the prospects or make that misnomer become a truism.
More importantly, sleep affects our hormones, immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
The lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections. It can affect the way we respond to vaccinations, pretty important these days. And lack of sleep can produce a diabetic-like condition in people who are healthy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/
Vigor and Trim wants to see you healthy and vibrant and have designed a comprehensive Guide, 8 Proven Strategies to Better Health After 50. The Guide provides strategies to the top 8 concerns of people over 50.
Among the top 8 concerns, there’s a section on diet, Developing Awareness of What You Put in Your Body, and a section on sleep, You Never Get Enough Sleep and When You Do, You Still Feel Tired. You can get your copy here.
Different Diets and Sleep
The Ketogenic Diet or Keto
There are different versions of a Keto diet, but generally speaking, a Keto diet focuses on an increased fat intake, a moderate amount of protein and a severe reduction in carbohydrates.
By restricting the carbs and increasing fat, the body can go into a state of ketosis where the body derives energy from fat instead of glucose (from carbs). The body uses glucose as its number one go to for fuel.
Because ketosis limits glucose as fuel for the body, it can drastically lower blood sugar levels while improving insulin resistance. In that regard, ketosis mimics fasting.
Switching the body’s fuel source from glucose to fatty acids can have many benefits, it also may have a downside for sleep, at least for a period of time, a sleep adjustment period. More on that later.
The research that is done on sleep with different combinations of macronutrients mostly consists of short-term studies, but it does begin to paint a picture.
It seems that when people start a Keto diet, changes in their sleep patterns are reported and some report having insomnia. These changes in sleep patterns are attributed to low levels of serotonin and melatonin.
When awake, Keto seems to produce a higher level of energy. This, too, may have an effect on sleep patterns.
A Keto diet may help relax the nervous system, reducing pain and inflammation. All of these things help us sleep better.
Carbohydrates and Sleep
As you now know, there’s just not enough research on specific diets and their affect on sleep. There is, however, a lot of research on carbohydrates and the quality of sleep.
L-Tryptophan is an amino acid from protein that when combined with carbohydrates, assists with the production of serotonin. Carbohydrates drive L-tryptophan, across the blood brain barrier. https://academic.oup.com/cdn/article/5/Supplement_2/896/6293442
And serotonin is a hormone that transmits signals between nerve cells. Serotonin is required to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone.
In order to properly synthesize serotonin, sufficient levels of carbohydrates are needed. Severe reduction of carbohydrates means L-tryptophan is severely reduced and so is serotonin.
Because L-tryptophan isn’t made in the body, it must be consumed from. Without carbohydrates, tryptophan doesn’t have a significant effect on serotonin.
Serotonin is complex and can go both ways depending upon what receptor it lands on. When it sticks the landing, it affects mood, calms the body and contributes to better sleep, and to better wellbeing.
For the older adult, the Keto diet can be troublesome. It can be boring with limited choices, but more importantly, the recommended amount of protein intake may not be enough. Older adults need more protein than younger people in order to build and maintain muscle mass and the Keto diet may not provide that.
Also, the high-fat nature of Keto could be problematic for heart disease and other problems as we mature.
A close eye on maintaining necessary nutrient levels is required when limiting foods. Not everyone has the capacity, or the time and it could wind up with decreased amounts of essential vitamins and minerals that are needed. The same goes for fiber, a crucial element that protects the heart and the digestive system, especially when limiting grains, beans, legumes and fruit.
Always consult with your doctor.
“Research on the effects to sleep of high-protein and high-carbohydrate
diets is mixed. Some studies have shown people with sleep disorders such
as insomnia and sleep apnea tend to consume less carbohydrates than
people without these sleep disorders. Other research shows reductions to
slow-wave sleep in people who consume high-carb diets, compared to