How exactly does the food you eat affect your sleep?

How Food Affects Our Sleep

A lot of people ask me how food will help them sleep, and while it can be a looooong answer and can depend greatly from person to person, there is an easy explanation I'd like to share.

Firstly, the macronutrients that we eat (fats, carbs and proteins) all play a very important role in all metabolic functions that our bodies must carry out, including growth, repair - digestion, sleep, etc. Each of these processes requires specific macronutrients and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

For example, proteins are broken down into amino acids as we digest them. Amino acids are necessary building blocks in hormone production. Specific hormones need to be released at specific times in order to elicit a feeling of tiredness.

Fats are needed as they are responsible for regulating our sex hormones. Fat is also a structural component for prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that regulate many of our body's functions.

Carbohydrates have been shown to be key in obtaining quality sleep. Please keep in mind that when we say carbs, we are referring to complex carbs such as vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Simple carbs like white breads, pastas and baked goods may cause us to feel sleepy but that is due to a crash in blood sugar shortly after eating such foods. Complex carbs on the other hand, signal a release of seratonin, the 'feel good hormone' that is also a precursor to our main sleep hormones. These complex carbs also contain fibre which allows them to break down slowly, ensuring that we don't suffer blood sugar spikes and crashes.

By focusing on a whole foods diet that includes many different foods we are better able to ensure our bodies have the nutrients they need to complete all the complex processes for maintaining proper sleep patterns.

While there are many other aspects in our lives that can affect our sleep, including stress, pre existing health conditions, medications, work schedules and more, we can't always control the external factors affecting our sleep. However, we all need to eat and we can make smarter choices in deciding what to put in our bodies for fuel.

I help people navigate and address all the factors affecting their sleep and I always start with diet. Begin including the foods below to your daily meals and contact me for more support - rbrooks@foodforsleep.ca.

Sleep Supporting Recipe

The Snoozer Smoothie

Try this one as a mid afternoon snack!

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen blueberries (or other berry of choice)

1 scoop of protein powder (I prefer a plant based option) in a flavor of your choice

1 cup tart cherry juice

1 cup spinnach

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1 tbs coconut oil

 

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend to desired consistency. Add water if needed.
  2. Pour in a cup and enjoy or pour in a bowl and top with nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, granola or coconut for a smoothie bowl.