You are what you eat is a pretty common phrase that we have all heard at one point. But what about you sleep what and how you eat?
It is a given that the foods we eat affect our bodies physically from whether we lose or gain weight, to even how our skin looks. But enjoying good nutrition doesn’t only stop there. Yep, I said it! What and how you eat can also actually affect the quality of your sleep.
And I can already feel some confused looks coming this way. But hear me out. I want you to think of the last time you had a late heavy dinner. Something like a mac and cheese, chicken wings, a burger. To top things off, you finish with a nice slice of that mouthwatering chocolate cake. Thirty minutes later, it’s time for bed. Do you remember the quality of your sleep? Was it a restful sleep? Or do you remember it being uncomfortable, perhaps it was interrupted. You wake up feeling almost hungover since you didn’t rest.
There are a few reasons why your sleep is so off when you indulge before bed. For starters, your body is on alert working hard on digesting the food instead of resting and recovering, which is what it’s supposed to be doing while we sleep. For those that have adopted fasting, this is where some of its benefits come from. When you give your body enough of a food break when you sleep (at least 12 hours), it starts cleaning up house for you like eliminating and removing waste from your body.
Mind you, I am not suggesting or recommending that everyone should fast. For this post, I am simply saying that eating right before bed can be disruptive to the quality of your sleep because it takes away from the recovering component that our bodies do naturally, to focus instead on digesting.
We talked about the ‘how you eat’ affects sleep, now let’s dive into the ‘what you eat’. There are a few types of foods that have a direct link with affecting the quality of your sleep. The most obvious one being caffeine. Some people are really caffeine sensitive and should consider their latte cutoff to be at noon. On the other hand, I have clients that swear that coffee helps them sleep. So this is when it’s important to listen up and see how caffeine affects you. This includes caffeinated teas and other beverages too, not only coffee.
But you didn’t think that this is where the role of nutrition stops when it comes to sleep, did you? There’s perhaps the less obvious component but oh so important. It has everything to do with how much sugar is in your bloodstream. I don’t only mean how much dessert you had before bed, but carbs in general, refined carbs in particular.
Carbs are so important to us because they are the ones that mostly provide our bodies with energy. We couldn’t exist without them. So here’s the catch, they provide us with energy, right? Well, that’s the exact opposite of what we want when we are trying to unwind and fall asleep. Which is why starchy dinners and especially when it’s followed or accompanied by dessert and sweet beverages, will most definitely get in the way of us getting a beautiful night’s sleep. This is because as your body breaks down this food, it releases a significant about of sugar (glucose) at once into your bloodstream. Which ends up energizing your body and bidding adieu to a calming and restful night.
So out of all this, here are my Nutrinut tips of things that you can tweak in your nutrition, to make sure you SIGNIFICANTLY improve your sleep!
1.Be mindful of caffeine! If you are sensitive, make sure your last caffeine beverage of the day is before lunch time.
2.Aim to have dinner at least 2 hours before bed.
3.When it comes to dinner, prioritize nourishing foods like fiber-rich veggies (leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus), healthy sources of protein (egg, beans, legumes, fish), and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds).
4.Be mindful about dessert, refined starches (pasta, white rice, white bread) and juice/sweet beverages during dinner. These can be energizing and disturb sleep.
-Enjoy a cup of warm calming tea an hour before bed like chamomile, passionflower, lavender, lemon balm, valerian root.
-Unplug 30 minutes before bed and incorporate relaxing activities such as reading, drawing, meditating, baths.
And remember, quality sleep is a necessity and not a luxury. We NEED to sleep, rest, and recover for us to be ready to rock the next day! So make sure to add sleep to your list of self-care priorities.