How to eat — for better sleep.
Yep, you read that right. There is a way to eat your way to a better night’s sleep. Now, before you get too excited and order pepperoni pizza with cheese stuffed crust or swing by Dunkin and order 325 munchkins in pursuit of those perfect 8 hours, there’s a catch.
Certain foods have an adverse effect on sleep, just as others can improve it. The trick is sticking to foods low in carbs, high in fiber, raw foods and those rich in nutrients.
We know that sounds healthy, but stick with us. Convinced health food is not your thing? Don’t worry. You don’t have to swing by Whole Foods after work. We won’t tell.
That one friend who says, “I ate cauliflower crusted pizza last night.”
Repeatedly eating carbohydrate-rich food immediately before going to sleep may impair growth hormone secretion during the deep-sleep phase. Read: Don’t eat the entire pot of mac and cheese in bed.
Our endocrine systems secrete growth hormone while we’re in Slow Wave Sleep, or the deep sleep phase, to repair tissue and restore our body for the next day. Growth hormone is critical for a healthy metabolism and has been linked to living longer.
Additionally, low carb diets lower blood sugar, which increases slow wave sleep. So, if you eat fewer carbs and, as a result, have lower blood sugar, you will produce an ideal amount of growth hormone and increase your most restorative phase of sleep.
“Does lettuce on my burger count as a vegetable serving?”
Eating lots of raw vegetables can have innumerable health benefits. One of these is reducing the body’s need for REM sleep. That’s right, if you eat your veggies, you can get all the benefits of REM sleep in less time.
This benefit is thanks to the gut fermentable fiber they contain. This fiber makes these vegetables easier to digest, which is significant because food digestion actually distracts the brain from the sleeping process.
“We all know someone who orders Hibachi chicken at the sushi restaurant.”
The same concept applies to raw foods in general. Uncooked foods digest in a third to half the time of cooked foods. Tell that to your buddy who never chooses the sushi bar for lunch.
The less effort your body puts into digesting food, the more it can put into getting you quality sleep.
Nutrient Dense Foods
“Balanced diet doesn’t always mean ice cream in one hand, apple in the other.”
Nutrient deficiencies increase the risk of sleeping disorders and can reduce sleep quality. Therefore, eating foods high in nutrients can help keep these disorders at bay and improve sleep quality.
Some incredibly nutrient-dense foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet Potatoes
- Chia Seeds
When to Eat
Great sleep is not only influenced by what you eat but also when you eat. Based on our natural wiring as humans, it is ideal to eat when you expect to be awake.
Studies have shown you should eat within 30 minutes of waking to get your body accustomed to producing gastric juices which increase wakefulness. When your day winds down and your bedtime approaches, try not to eat within 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. We know that sounds impossible. Try it anyway.
Cortisol levels temporarily triple at each meal which can disrupt deep sleep. Disrupted sleep leaves us tired, and who wants that?!
It’s simple: pay attention to your meals as much as you pay attention to your bedtime. How you eat impacts how you sleep. For optimized, restorative sleep, keep those carbs low and nutrient density high. Also, the more you can resist those late-night snacks, the better you’ll feel the next morning. Your co-worker will thank you.
Pssst: We’re not your doctor, so be sure to consult a professional for any drastic diet changes. Our game is helping you sleep better tonight, not making a doctor’s appointment for you tomorrow.