Workouts & Nutrition

Eat to Sleep

. Mood, Nutrition, Sleep

Australia has recently adjusted its clocks and most of us enjoyed an extra hours rest. Poor sleep has been linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, poor athletic performance and a shortened lifespan. Certain nutrients have been shown to influence the duration, quality and how quickly we nod off. Here are my food tips for a dream sleep.

The average adult gets about seven hours of shut eye each night. Those that get less than this or more than nine hours tend to have a higher amount of body fat. Experts are unsure whether being overweight leads to less sleep or sleep deprivation leads to weight gain. Food commercials at 1AM can look pretty tempting.

Cortisol is a hormone that controls our sleep cycle. A disruption in cortisol at night affects our sleep which then depresses our immune system, alters our appetite and changes the way we metabolise nutrients. We can change our cortisol levels throughout the day by eating the right diet.

High glycaemic index foods such as sugar and refined white bread cause our cortisol levels to rise rapidly. Even having a sugary, low-fibre breakfast will result in a cortisol overshoot and your slumber will be compromised. Skipping meals makes this even worse. If you don’t eat within five hours your cortisol will increase alongside your sleep deprivation.

The good news is that if you eat regular low glycaemic meals then you’ll lower your cortisol levels. Good choices are eggs, meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. Eating high quality carbohydrate close to bedtime will result in a shorter time to falling asleep. Adequate protein will ensure you have a quality snooze.

Limit caffeine containing foods and beverages to at least six hours outside of your shut eye time. Even foods like chocolate can have an impact as they not only contain caffeine but also the amino acid tyrosine which is very stimulating. Avoid, eating spicy and acidic food such as citrus fruit, tomatoes, onion, garlic and black pepper which may cause indigestion.

Drink your fluids early in the day and taper off in the evening. This includes alcohol which may help you get to sleep but it will wake you up frequently later in the night. Avoid meals that are too large or too high in fat and keep your sleep and wake time consistent.

If you want to try a few, new bedtime tricks then I recommend focussing on certain foods. Tryptophan found in turkey, milk, cheese or nuts in small doses. Tart cherries and other foods containing melatonin such as bananas, oats, corn or tomatoes. The herb valerian has also been shown to benefit your forty winks.

Be wary of wasting your money on supplements that aren’t supported by scientific evidence but still make claims. Supplements such as St John’s wort, lysine, glycine, magnesium, nucleotides, lavender, lemon balm and magnolia are well marketed for sleep but haven’t been adequately investigated.

Dreams are made of a quality diet. Eating regular, small healthy meals that have complex carbohydrate and adequate protein is great for your health and sleep. Everybody is different so work out the culprits you can’t eat close to bed time and include a few snore–inducing ones. The sandman rewards all of us who eat well.

From @zap_fit