We all know what it’s like to stomp from a day after a night of poor sleep. Not only can poor sleep affect productivity, it can also affect your appetite and eating habits. In addition, persistent poor sleep can increase the risk of illness, injury, and prolonged recovery from daily stressors such as: B. increase a hard workout. Sleeping well can help keep important metabolic hormones in balance, while sleeping poorly can shed them.
The general recommendation for optimal sleep is to aim for seven to nine hours of uninterrupted, restful sleep each night. Optimal sleep has to do with many factors other than how long you’ve slept. This includes your sleep quality, the architecture of your sleep and individual sleep patterns. How restful was your sleep? Do you often feel drowsy when you wake up? How long does it take you to fall asleep? How many times have you woken up through the night? At first glance, it seems likely that these factors are beyond your control while you are unconscious in your sleep state, dreaming, processing, and entrenching memories and information. However, strategic dietary changes can help influence these seemingly uncontrollable factors and contribute to better quality and duration of sleep.
Sleep disorders are a risk factor for impaired metabolism and eating habits. Eating a strategic snack an hour or more before bed can contribute to better quality sleep through inflammatory pathways and increased melatonin production. Here are some examples of quality pre-bed snacks to support various body composition goals and activity levels:
Low activity or weight loss goal:
1 handful of walnuts + 8 ounces of slightly tart cherry juice
1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat Greek yogurt + 1 kiwi
Moderate activity level or goal of weight maintenance:
1 slice of toast + 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter + 8 ounces of low-fat milk
Mix in a smoothie or food processor: 1/2 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt + 1-2 kiwi fruit + 8 ounces of slightly tart cherry juice + 8 ounces of low-fat milk – to make a frozen yogurt sweet, just freeze the mixture
High activity or weight gain goal:
2 slices of bread + 3 ounces of lean turkey + vegetable garnish + 8 ounces of tart cherry juice
Mix in a smoothie or food processor: 8-16 ounces of milk + 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt + 1 cup of oats + 2 cups of fruit + 2 tablespoons of almond butter
There are several ways in which food intake can affect sleep. One is through your circadian clock, which is your body’s 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Your circadian clock helps regulate metabolic hormones, which levels fluctuate throughout the day. One of them is the sleep hormone melatonin. When the sun goes down in the evening, the change in light signals the body to release melatonin so we can relax and unwind.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to negatively affect the hormones that regulate appetite by increasing the levels of hormones that make us hungry and lowering the levels of hormones that make us feel full. Working shifts, watching Netflix late, or battling your internal clock can lead to erratic eating habits and food choices. Also, staying awake for long periods of time can make you eat more often and later at night, which can further confuse your body and metabolism.
Research has linked a standard healthy diet pattern to better quality sleep. This includes minimal processed and sugary foods and higher consumption of foods consistent with anti-inflammatory Mediterranean eating habits. There is a strong correlation between higher levels of inflammation and inadequate sleep. Proper consumption of plant-based foods, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, nuts, and avocado can help reduce neuroinflammation. While more research is needed into the ins and outs of diet and sleep, particularly with respect to certain foods and supplements, there is solid evidence that strategic eating habits and times can help you sleep better.
Let’s increase the timing. It’s not uncommon for people to have a snack before bed, especially if dinner was early or if they have a case of nibbles while watching TV. We don’t usually reach for fruits and vegetables right now. Instead, we are often looking for something sweet, savory or very tasty like french fries or ice cream. We want to minimize such decisions and use this time to feed our bodies so that you can catch more Zs. Here are some nutritional tips to snack on at least an hour before bed:
Prepare for bed with protein before bed: Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body needs to make serotonin and melatonin – both of which are involved in regulating sleep. Protein foods high in tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier to reach your brain and increase melatonin production. Foods with the cheapest tryptophan content are those with whey protein, which is found in milk-based products. A dose of just 1 gram of tryptophan can help you sleep better. You can enjoy a healthy serving of tryptophan in 2-3 ounces of lean turkey or chicken or 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese.
Pair carbohydrates with your protein: Combining a tryptophan-rich protein source with complex carbohydrates such as beans or whole grains has various positive effects on sleep. The digestion of such carbohydrates promotes the production of short chain fatty acids, which benefit the gut-brain connection and reduce inflammation. Additionally, certain carbohydrates – potatoes, wheat and white bread, oats, and rice cakes, to name a few – can actually increase the availability of tryptophan and serotonin.
Benefit from fruity antioxidants: Your circadian clock responds to bioactive compounds and phytonutrients that are found in abundance in fruits. Since antioxidants can help counteract the inflammation associated with poor sleep, you can’t go wrong with the type of fruit you choose. Kiwis have been studied for their potential to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. The sleep-promoting effects of kiwi fruit are said to be due to their high serotonin content, which is a precursor for melatonin. When you have serotonin, you have the ability to produce more melatonin and potentially get better sleep. In addition to fruit, other foods with antioxidant properties that have been studied as potential bedtime snacks include almonds, walnuts, and chamomile tea, some of which are also food sources of serotonin or melatonin.
Try spicy cherry juice: Going back to fruity antioxidants, tart or montmorency cherries have both high antioxidant capacity and a significant source of melatonin. Compared to sweet cherries, pie cherries have 20 times the vitamin A and more than double the polyphenols. Because of this antioxidant profile, hot cherries have been studied and used as part of recovery for athletic performance to promote better sleep. In one specific study, participants consumed 8 ounces of tart cherry juice daily for two weeks, which has been shown to improve sleep time, quality, and symptoms of insomnia. You can buy sharp cherry juice at most grocery stores. The Cheribundi brand sells individual 8-ounce servings. If you’re watching your blood sugar levels, Cheribundi makes a low-sugar version too.
Emma Willingham is a registered nutritionist practicing in an outpatient hospital clinic and through her private practice, Fuel with Emma. Willingham specializes in exercise nutrition, weight management and nutritional counseling and aims to foster resilient relationships between food, mind and body. You can find her on social media at @fuelwithemma.