Tired and stressed? These tweaks to your diet can help

Feeling tired and frazzled can lead to side-stepping healthy habits, like exercise and eating well. These diet strategies can help you stress less and sleep better. Appropriate sleep — defined as 7-9 hours each night — is as important to your health, physical and mental performance, and emotional well being, as proper nutrition and fitness.

Stress is a normal (and annoying) part of life. And when stress persists, it can influence your health by promoting inflammation that plays a key role in many diseases. On top of that, stress hormones prompt weight gain that’s marked by fat storage in your mid-section. This type of belly fat is especially harmful and can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Feeling burned out can be unhealthy in other ways because it can simultaneously lead to side-stepping healthy habits, like exercise and eating well. And some people try to self-soothe with alcohol, which can get excessive. And when you’re in overdrive mode, it’s also hard to sleep.

Appropriate sleep — defined as 7-9 hours each night — is as important to your health, physical and mental performance, and emotional wellbeing, as proper nutrition and fitness. Yet, there’s a good chance you’re not sleeping well — at least sometimes. The American Psychological Association estimates that 60 percent of Americans have sleep issues at least a few nights a week, and the CDC reports that about 30 percent of people routinely fall short of healthy sleep targets.

A chronic sleep deficit doesn’t just leave you cranky and groggy; it takes a toll in other ways:

  • It affects your work performance. Your focus and thinking skills become impaired and it impacts your ability to multi-task. Plus, it’s harder to make difficult decisions when you’re sleep deprived, and you’re more likely to make mistakes.
  • It impairs your reaction time. This is especially dangerous when driving since it affects your ability to break or swerve immediately, for example, if the car in front of you comes to a sudden stop or someone or something is in the middle of the road.
  • It makes you ravenous. Insufficient sleep disrupts the hormone that tells you you’re hungry, putting your appetite on overdrive. At the same time, it messes with the hormone responsible for signaling fullness, which may lead to overeating and ultimately, weight problems. And it makes you crave unhealthy foods.
  • It encourages your body to store more fat. Sleep loss makes you pump out more cortisol—a stress hormone that encourages fat storage.
  • It makes you more likely to catch a cold. Researchers found that people who sleep six hours or less at night are four times more likely to get sick compared to those who sleep more.
  • It raises your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Research suggests our fast-paced lifestyles are partially to blame; we’re too stressed out, spend too much time in front of screens, and get too little activity, all of which can interfere with a good night’s rest.


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