Eat Your Way to Better Sleep

Eat Your Way to Better Sleep

Are you having difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep? Millions of us do from time to time, but many also suffer from this on a regular basis. It’s called insomnia, and it can come on acutely or become a chronic condition.

Sleep is necessary to repair tissues and cells each and every day. It helps prevent illness and injury and helps us recover from exercise, manage stress and simply have ample energy throughout the day. Diet and sleep don’t seem connected intuitively, but diet actually plays a major role in our ability to achieve sound sleep. The quality of nutritional intake, as well as timing are crucial components to getting the best, most refreshing sleep.

But why? The answer lies in cortisol! Cortisol is a hormone produced in your body that helps manage how quickly you’re able to fall asleep and how deep and rejuvenating your sleep will be. It’s cyclically produced, with more released in the morning and less at night, and is the master of your 24-hour circadian rhythm. With optimal cortisol levels at night, your sleep cycles normalize, meaning you sleep well and wake naturally.

This is where food comes into play! Cortisol levels rise along with blood sugar levels, so high glycemic foods that are low in fiber (which normally increase blood sugar levels) will have more negative effects on your sleep that low-glycemic foods rich in healthy fiber. The better control you have on your cortisol levels form the very beginning of the day, the better you will fare when bedtime rolls around.

Imagine then for lunch, choosing a roasted turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices on whole grain bread rather than a hotdog on a white bun with a side of chips.

Many insomniacs start their day out with a high-sugar cereal and a high-sugar muffin. They believe the sugar will wake them up from their groggy, sleep-deprived state, when, in reality, this is only perpetuating their poor sleep issues. It’s common for high cortisol levels to remain high, increasing evenly with each meal if meals are not chosen wisely.

Focusing your dietary intake on low-moderate foods such as lean protein, fish, healthy fats, vegetables, whole grains, fruits and low-fat dairy will assist in maintaining healthy cortisol levels. Having meals every 3-5 hours has been shown most beneficial to blood sugar and cortisol levels, ultimately helping decrease sleep disturbance.

Nutrition Tips for Better Sleep

In addition to general lifestyle tips, such as getting to bed at the same time each night; avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine in the afternoon and evening; creating a calming routine before bed, such as reading, mediating or listening to soothing music; and taking a warm bath, there are also dietary changes that can assist you with better sleep.

Manage your cortisol and blood sugars levels the right way with these tips and start getting more restful, productive sleep!

  • Eat breakfast soon after waking (within 20 minutes).
  • Eat a combination of low-glycemic foods every time you have a meal or snack.
  • Use your NutriBullet to easily and conveniently include high quality foods and nutrients in your diet.
  • Eat regularly (every 3-5 hours).
  • Eat according to physical hunger.
  • Don’t go too long without food and never skip a meal.
  • Avoid processed foods that are high in refined sugar and low in fiber.
  • Eat a light meal before bed, rather than a large, heavy meal.
  • Maintain optimal hydration throughout the day to enhance absorption of nutrients.

Implementing some of these dietary changes can change how you feel every morning. You can go from feeling frustrated, groggy and void of energy to bouncing out of bed ready to tackle each and every day!

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach

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