5 SLEEP BENEFITS YOU'LL FEEL BY GOING VEGAN FOR JANUARY
Veganuary is back! From reducing your carbon footprint to experimenting with unfamiliar foods and creating new meals, there are so many benefits of this New Years challenge. But, did you know that going vegan can also be beneficial for your sleep quality? Here, Phil Lawlor, Sleep Expert at Dormeo, discusses the top five sleep benefits you may feel by going vegan for January. With more and more of us becoming increasingly conscious about our impact on the planet, it's no surprise that so many Brits have already made the change to veganism. In fact, it's now believed that there are over 600,000 vegans in the UK alone, with this number increasing by 62% in 2019 (Vegan Food and Living). In a bid to start the new year off with good intentions, and in a much healthier way, plenty of people each year get involved with the new years challenge known as Veganuary. This is a commitment to eating only vegan foods for the whole of January. The challenge saw over 400,000 people take part in 2020, and this number only seems to increase year on year (Veganuary). Not only does it introduce you to new foods, recipes, and a lifestyle change, but going vegan can also have many positive effects on other aspects of your life, including your sleep quality. Here, I will be sharing with you five sleep benefits you may feel by going vegan this month.
You can have less vivid dreams
While nodding off to dreamland can sometimes be a welcome break from the realities and stressors of life, having vivid dreams can leave us feeling disorientated and sluggish when we wake up. Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020, there have been more reports of vivid dreams and nightmares, and some of us are still experiencing these (Scientific American). But changing to a vegan diet could help to tackle these issues. Vivid dreams are commonly associated with tryptophan, an amino acid which is converted into serotonin. Tryptophan is found in foods such as cheese, lamb, milk, eggs and fish; all of which are ingredients that you won't find in a vegan diet. Therefore, avoiding these foods means you could be less likely to experience vivid dreams than others on a non-vegan diet might. Similarly, the balance of vitamins and minerals ingested through a vegan diet means you're less likely to feel bloated or disturbed during the night, which might also be causing your weird and wild dreams. It's important to note that a sudden increase of vitamin B6, which is present in many vegetables, can contribute to more vivid dreams initially. With this in mind, it's important to introduce this vitamin gradually into your diet before Veganuary if you didn't usually eat lots of B6-rich foods.
It can take a shorter time to fall asleep faster
If you frequently struggle with getting to sleep, you might be interested to know how veganism can help tackle this. Vitamin B12 is found in many leafy green vegetables, which are staples in a vegan diet. This vitamin is key for regulating your sleep-wake cycles, meaning it helps you to feel sleepy at night and awake during the day. Good levels of B12 have been linked to lower chances of insomnia, meaning you could find it takes you much less time to fall asleep when participating in Veganuary. Some of the other main sources of B12 include red meat and fish, which aren't eaten on a vegan diet. So, it's important to ensure you're getting it from other sources including fortified cereals, plant-based meat alternatives, and many other foods. Adding these into your diet as replacements for your usual sources of B12 will ensure you can benefit from the positives on your sleep quality and quantity.
There's less chance of broken sleep
In addition to helping you fall asleep faster, following a vegan diet can also make it more likely that you'll be able to stay asleep. This can be attributed to a number of factors within a vegan diet. For one, vegan foods are generally much lower in sugar than alternatives. These foods are therefore easier for your digestive system to process, meaning you're less likely to be disturbed during the night by stomach pains, or indigestion (One Green Planet). In fact, a vegan diet usually includes many sources of fibre, which is key for keeping your blood glucose levels balanced. This in turn can contribute to a much better quality of rest and less broken sleep. Another benefit to note is the role of soy. This ingredient is present in many vegan foods and has been linked to longer sleep durations (Nutritional Journal). So, if you commonly suffer from disturbed sleep, make sure to integrate many soy-rich foods like tofu, miso, and edamame into your meals during Veganuary.
It can boost your mood which aids sleep
There have been many studies done which show that people suffering with mood disorders are much more likely to suffer from sleep problems including insomnia and broken sleep. According to a study published in the Journal of European Psychology Students, those who go to sleep in a better mood are more likely to have a good night's sleep. So, by adjusting your diet to improve your energy levels and mood, you could also improve your sleep quality and quantity. Vegan diets include many nutritious vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B. All of these have been linked to lowering stress levels, which in turn will boost your mood. And, getting a more restful nights sleep to rejuvenate and refresh can then mean you wake up much happier and positive. So, it's a great cycle to fall into.
It can improve your overall sleep cycle
There are many food groups which can interrupt your sleep if eaten in excess. For example, protein can certainly take its toll on your digestive system as it takes a long time to break down and requires more energy for your body to digest it properly. This means that eating a protein-rich meal, particularly on an evening, can result in disturbed and broken sleep more often. This is where vegans may feel better sleep effects than non-vegans as a lot of the protein sources which could cause the above problems are found in animal products. However, it is still important to consume enough protein as it's vital for repairing your muscles and to make hormones and enzymes, as well as transforming into energy sources. As vegans do still have plenty of protein sources, from plant-based foods, it may also be worth considering planning your meals so that you eat less protein as the day goes on. This should ensure your sleep quality and quantity aren't affected.
Veganuary is a great challenge to get involved in, whether you're looking to make a permanent lifestyle change or just want to be more experimental with your meals. But you're also likely to feel the benefits on your sleep cycle, too. So, you can look forward to restful nights from here on out!