If you’re like us, your eating habits might change from time to time. A long day at work could lead to a late night microwave meal. Or having friends over might result in a hearty takeaway.
Whatever your style is, have you ever stopped to think about how food impacts your sleep? Here, we give you the full scoop (pun definitely intended) along with some sleep-boosting tips.
the (tasty) truth
It’s a fact: food affects our snoozing patterns. According to our sleep expert Dave Gibson, eating a healthy balance of fats, carbs and proteins helps us to drift off as we give our body the nutrients it needs to refuel while we sleep. If we change our eating patterns regularly, make rubbish food choices or snack near to bedtime, this can disrupt our sleep due to sugar highs or still being in digesting mode when it’s time to sleep. The result? Rubbish sleep which leads to even more rubbish choices the next day: “The hormone which tells us we’re full (leptin) is reduced and the hormone that tells us we’re hungry (ghrelin) goes into overdrive,” Dave explains.
So if we’re feeling groggy after a restless night due to that spicy korma we ate at 9pm, we’ll be tempted to reach for unhealthy comfort food, which then impacts our sleep again. Can you see a pattern emerging? Us too.
superheroes for sleep
So what foods help us sleep and what foods should we avoid? Well, it turns out there’s plenty of foods that can help us to clock in those glorious zzz's: “There are a host of amino acids, enzymes, nutrients, chemicals and hormones which work together to promote good sleep and regulate the sleep cycle,” says Dave. Check out his top picks below:
- Fruit: Don’t eye-roll us just yet. Fruit can be an absolute saviour for sleep. Especially those that are jam-packed antioxidants like tart cherries. Known as a ‘sleep superfood’, tart cherries contain melatonin, the sleep hormone, which can support sleep. Try Dave’s fabulous fruit salad recipe for plenty of sleep-loving nutrients.
- Calcium: A top nutrient for helping us to relax, calcium can be found in dairy products like natural yoghurt or cheese or in leafy green vegetables like broccoli and bok choy. Get chomping, folks.
- Vitamin D: A clever vitamin that supports calcium absorption, vitamin D can be found in eggs, fatty fish and bananas. You can also give your body a boost by getting out in the sun. If you want to create your own elixir at home, try our bedtime banana tea recipe to get you settled and ready for snoozing.
- Nuts: Walnuts and almonds contain melatonin (the sleep hormone) and essential fatty acids which are thought to aid sleep and rest. Try a handful as a snack.
- Magnesium: Hailed as a sleep saviour for centuries, magnesium is known to reduce our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) so that we feel more relaxed and sleep-ready. Found in nuts, leafy greens and fish, fill up on these and you’ll be snoozing in no time.
As much as we love food, it’s not all plain sailing when it comes to our munching habits. Dave says that certain food and drinks keep us awake. So it’s best to resist these close to bedtime if you’re aiming for top quality kip:
- Sugar: Satisfying that sweet close to bedtime can cause our brain to go on full alert and give us a hit of energy. So instead of bouncing around when you should be winding down, Dave recommends eating a handful of nuts or drinking that banana tea if you’re feeling a bit peckish.
- Spicy foods: A hit of spice might taste really nice. But it could also be the reason your sleep is suffering. Indian food in particular is packed with lots of spices that can weigh on your digestive system and steal your precious zzz’s. We’re not saying don’t have spice, but eating earlier can give your body the kickstart it needs to digest before bed.
- Alcohol: Leaving a couple of hours between your last drink and when you hit the sack could save your sleep. Even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it actually reduces your REM sleep which can lead to you waking up feeling groggy. And we all know where that leads (hello again, comfort food).
munch time vs sleep time
Okay. So you’re clued up on the best and worst foods for sleep. But what about the actual time that you eat? Dave recommends leaving 3 hours between eating and sleeping so that your body can focus on the important rest bit rather than the digesting bit.
Planning your day and eating at the right times for sleep couldn’t be easier thanks to our nifty routine calculator. All you have to do is answer a few questions like how much sleep you’d like, when you’d like to wake up and who your favourite Teletubby is (just kidding on that one), and the calculator will plan out your ideal day for top notch sleep. Sounds easy, right? Off you go. Eat, drink, be merry, sleep well. And you’ll enjoy brighter mornings in no time.