It happens without notice: After weeks of restful sleep, you’re suddenly unable to get in a full 8 hours of sleep.
Or worse yet, jet lag has messed with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
Together, these sleep disorders affect millions of American every year.
Yet a new study published in the journal Cell Reports reveals there may be a way to fight it–though in a slightly unorthodox way.
“The circadian clock is entrained to environmental cycles by external cue-mediated phase adjustment,” write researchers, whose study was published online this week. “Here, we report that insulin may be involved in feeding-induced tissue-type-dependent entrainment in vivo.”
In the study, which was led by researcher Dr. Makoto Akashi from Yamaguchi University, researchers examined how certain foods affected a person’s circadian rhythm, something believed to regulate a person’s sleep cycle. In the past, researchers knew that two factors regulated this cycle–light and food. They weren’t sure how food quite fit into this equation, however.
Using mice and cell culture, Akashi decided to experiment with certain foods–specifically, foods that raised insulin levels.
“Insulin-mediated phase adjustment of the clock in feeding-relevant tissues may enable the synchronization between mealtime and tissue function, leading to effective digestion and absorption,” says Akashi. “In short, insulin may help the stomach clock synchronize with mealtime.”
Shockingly, Akashi found that increasing insulin reset the circadian clock, enabling a more normalized sleep schedule. Increasing foods that didn’t spike insulin levels did not have this same effect, however.
In turn, Akashi says increasing insulin-spiking foods when faced with sleep problems, such as jet lag, may be a good way to fight erratic sleep cycles.
“For example, for jet lag, dinner should be enriched with ingredients promoting insulin secretion, which might lead to a phase advance of the circadian clock, whereas breakfast would be the opposite,” says Akashi.
As for which foods are best for helping you restore your circadian clock, researchers say it’s best to reach for foods common associated with insulin spikes–such as white rice, whole milk, and red meat.
Of course, make sure to eat these in moderation.
“Chronic desynchronization between physiological and environmental rhythms not only decreases physiological performance but also carries a significant risk of diverse disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, sleep disorders, and cancer,” says Akashi.
What You Should Do
Having trouble maintaining a normal sleep schedule? The next time you need help falling asleep, try eating more insulin-spiking foods for your last meal before going to sleep; it could help you nod off faster. This strategy isn’t a good idea for those suffering from type 2 diabetes, however, as these foods can make the disease worse.
Readers: Do certain foods make you feel sleepy?
Study: Insulin-Spiking Foods May Reset a Person’s Circadian Clock – CELL.com
Certain Foods May Reset a Person’s Circadian Rhythm – ScienceDaily.com
Foods That Spike Blood Sugar – EverydayHealth.com