It’s estimated that 50-70 million U.S. adults have some type of sleeping disorder. And what you eat or don’t eat may impact how you sleep.
Many studies provide evidence of how nutrition influences sleep quality and also plays a role in disorders such as sleep apnea, snoring, TMJ, and insomnia. Some doctors say the connection goes even further – perhaps back one or two generations in a family tree.
“Although patients often understand the role that diet plays in their overall health, many are surprised to find out that factors such as what their mother ate, or what their family traditionally eats, may have also played a role in their issues with breathing-related sleep disorders and TMJ,” says Dr. Shab Krish, author of Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders (www.krish.com). “That happens when outside stimulus detected by the body causes modifications at the cellular level, known as epigenetics. Diet can have a significant impact on changes to the cells.
“Several studies show that a poor or high-fat diet is detrimental to health across several generations. So what the mother eats when she is pregnant can affect the cells of the fetus. But the good news is that epigenetic marks are reversible and can respond to environmental changes like a healthy diet.”
Dr. Krish has three diet recommendations that can lead to healthier cells and better sleep:
Avoid Inflammatory foods. Dr. Krish says foods such as sugar, dairy products and gluten can cause inflammation and weight gain all over the body. This in turn increases the chances of sleep disorders. “For example, if there is excess fat in the neck, it can put more pressure on the airway,” Dr. Krish says. “Sugar is the worst; it causes inflammation everywhere, including in the nasal passages, which can cause a person to develop a bad habit of breathing through the mouth. And when that happens, the lower jaw is set back and downward, which can lead to poor tongue position and poor swallowing habits. All of these contribute to sleep issues.”
Load up on Omega 3s. “The typical Western diet is filled with refined carbohydrates and animal proteins and does not include many inflammation-reducing Omega 3s – fatty acids which have been shown to reduce cardiac arrest,” Dr. Krish says. Omega 3 foods Krish recommends include fish – anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines – nuts and seeds (walnuts, flax seeds), navy beans and soybeans, and vegetables such as spinach and brussel sprouts.
Eat epigenetic boosters. “An epigenetic diet can maximize the health of DNA,” says Dr. Krish. “Foods such as broccoli, turmeric, and green tea have demonstrated the ability to slow or reverse damage to the DNA. Foods that are rich in folate – vitamin B9 – improve epigenetics. These include citrus fruits, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables. Foods rich vitamin B12, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs, also are part of the folate family and boost epigenetics.”
“When it comes to sleep problems, nasal breathing and issues of the jaw and mouth, inflammation is a big culprit,” Dr. Krish says. “A strong overall diet goes a long way toward reducing it.”
Dr. Shab Krish, author of Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders, is director of TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of North Texas (www.krish.com). She has board certifications with the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain and the American Board of Craniofacial Dental Sleep Medicine. She is also a double specialist in both periodontics and endodontics.