Sleeping plays a very important role in our lives. In general, it is suggested for us to sleep 7-8 hours a day as an adult. That’s about ? of our day. It means about ? of our lives we spent sleeping! If we live to 70 years old, we will be spending about 23.333 years to sleep! Isn’t it crazy to think about this?
Many aspects in our life affect our sleep quality. For example Irregular sleep schedule, sleeping environment, too much caffeine or alcohol intake, drugs intake, snoring problem, sleeping disorders and mental health disorders. (1) However, can a diet, specifically a vegan diet be one of the factors that can improve your sleep quality?
Plant-Based Diet and Sleep
Researchers have found the link between poor sleep quality and cardiovascular risk. Poor sleep quality will increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. One popular study, called the PREDIMED study, looked into the correlation between the Mediterranean diet (mostly plants derived diet) and cardiovascular disease risk. Interestingly, they saw a correlation between the more amino acids called tryptophan found in the bloodstream, the lesser risk of getting cardiovascular disease among the study participants. (2)
What is the correlation? The more tryptophan flows in our bloodstream cause our body to increase the production of melatonin and serotonin hormones. Both of these hormones help to increase the quality and quantity of our sleep. These hormones are the ones that make us sleepy, especially melatonin. Serotonin could also be converted into melatonin by our body. Thus, it helps us to sleep better and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Where can we find the amino acids of tryptophan? There is plenty of tryptophan found in ”leafy greens, sunflower seeds, watercress, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, broccoli, and peas.” (3) Even fruits, nuts and seeds, and oats are good sources of tryptophan. (4) As for the animal-based foods that contain big amounts of tryptophan could be found in milk, canned tuna, turkey, chicken, and cheese. (5)
However, because there are other amino acids such as “tyrosine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, and methionine” found in animal-based food. These other types of amino acids are competing to enter the brain together with tryptophan. This causes less tryptophan to enter the brain, hence less serotonin is produced that results in poor sleeping quality. That’s why a plant-based protein is preferred over animal protein. (6) (7)
Although we can’t say that consuming more plant-based foods that contain a good amount of tryptophan will result in having a good quality of sleep at all times, with this you are helping your body to produce more serotonin and melatonin that possibly could help you to get better quality of sleep. Give it a try and experience the difference.