“I can sleep when I am dead.” It was my motto all through university as I rallied to maintain both my academic and social calendars. Long nights studying (or let’s be honest…at the bar), followed by early morning classes had me downing a lot of coffee, tea, and sugar to keep me going sun-up to well past sun-down. But with age comes wisdom, and I can see the folly of my ways: quality is so much better than quantity. What’s the use of slogging through life, eyes half open (or half shut if you are more of a pessimist)?
Turns out there is a lot more going on than just feeling like hot garbage when you miss a night of solid shut eye. During sleep, our body re-balances, allowing time for growth, repair, and re-calibration. Growth hormones (which stimulates cell regrowth and regeneration) are turned on, while corticotropin-releasing hormones (stress hormones) are inactivated. Appetite hormones work as they should, while the pancreas does its thing by releasing insulin and keep blood sugar levels stable.
You miss one or two nights, and all that goes to hell in a hand basket. There is no growth or repair, your body feels like it’s in a state of stress, and all you crave is sugary and fatty foods in an attempt to shut down your growling tummy and satiate the need for a quick energy boost. Plus, you end up looking like the hot mess you feel like. But in the world of Netflix, iPads, and 24-hour grocery stores, getting the sleep we need isn’t necessarily a priority…. No matter how dreamy it may sound. Sometimes it is just too hard to shut off, both screen and mind.
There are, however certain foods that may work in your favour when it comes to sleeping better. Cherries, those sweet little crimson beauties that are in season now, contain a natural source of melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that regulates our circadian rhythms, keeping us asleep right through until the morning. As we age, this hormone naturally declines, making it harder and harder to sleep through the night.
Lentils are another great choice for those that find it hard to sleep. Naturally high in magnesium and folate, they help to calm the mind and body and support our nervous system, so that we have an easier time drifting off into a peaceful slumber. Sounds blissful, no?
Cherry Lentil Salad Recipe
- 1 cup green lentils
- 1 cup cherries, pitted
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- Goat cheese, to taste
- Handful of basil, chopped into ribbons
Red Wine Vinaigrette
- 1 ½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a medium size pot, add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add lentils, cover, and reduce heat to low, simmer for 20 minutes.
- Whisk together ingredients for dressing in a small bowl.
- When lentils are done, drain and combine with dressing in a large mixing bowl.
- Add cherries, onions, goat cheese, and basil. Gently toss. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.
Enjoy…and sweet dreams.
Lynsey Walker is a Toronto-based nutritionist, and the blogger behind the food/wellness site lynsey loves food. Each week Lynsey writes about her favourite recipes, nutrition and outlook on healthy eating. By inspiring people to get back to eating real food, and fostering healthy relationships with what they put in their bodies she is on a mission to shake up the world of nutrition, and redefine what it means to eat healthy.