Healthy nutrition is one of the foundations of fitness and overall good health. But without restful sleep it’s hard to have a productive day or productive workouts. Many people are familiar with the advice to avoid caffeine and tobacco, but nutrition’s role in sleep is sometimes overlooked. Foods high in “bad fat,” sugar, and low in fiber set your body up for nagging sleep problems. The good news is that simple changes to your eating habits can help you get the restful sleep you need to perform at your best.
The Science of Sleep
Hormones and neurotransmitters work in concert with your body’s natural rhythms to prepare your body for restful sleep. Healthy nutrition with an emphasis on low sugar, high and quality protein foods helps your body produce and maintain the right balance of chemicals. An imbalance of a hormone called cortisol can interrupt rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic (source). Recent studies looking at the link between diets rich in fiber and low in bad fats have yielded promising results: “Higher fiber intake was linked to more time spent in slow waver, or deep sleep. The same studies found that “higher sugar intake was linked to more disrupted sleep. (source).”
Restful Sleep Through Nutrition
A diet of whole foods, fruits, vegetables and lean protein is the healthy nutrition you need for better sleep. However, keep in mind that even worse than choosing the wrong foods is skipping meals altogether. This sets up the body for hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances that will catch up to you when you go to bed (source). Healthy fats play an important role in hormone creation and balance. The key is to get the right fats! Fried foods and foods high in unhealthy saturated fats can be hard on the digestive system and kill healthy bacteria necessary for restful sleep and a healthy mental state.
Polyunsaturated fats from soybean, canola, and other seed oils are inflammatory. Avoid them if you want to be healthier. Even if you consume some omega-3 fats while consuming these inflammatory oils, you won’t reap the healthy fat benefits.
Fat that comes from medium chain triglycerides such as coconut oil, high quality MCT oil, and avocado oils, grass fed beef, grass fed butter, and fish have the ability to calm the brain and keep you full during the night. They also promote healthy gut bacteria.
- Note, if your new to MCT oils, start SLOW. 1 teaspoon or half a teaspoon is enough with your healthy meal options.
SLEEP HACK: When I can’t sleep at night I eat a little bit of healthy fat such as avocado or a little bit of MCT oil in my night time teas (decaf of course). This healthy fat seems to clam the system and keep me full. It also helps to prevent night time snacking. It’s a great way to keep your carb intake under control.
Other Sleeps Hacks from our previous article include
1.) Blue Light Blocking Glasses – I use these glasses at night while watching TV. It has helped me avoid my horrible insomnia and boost my own melatonin. It also helps to reset your internal clock. The minute you put them on it triggers your brain to realize that it’s night! They are reasonably priced, however, they take about 10 days to get here. It’s worth the wait!
2.) Turn Your Phone to Airplane Mode if it’s near your bed. Don’t worry, if you have an Iphone, I guarantee that your alarm will still go off! Even if you aren’t interacting with your phone, it still emits energy and searches for signals while you’re fast asleep. These waves can interrupt restful sleep patterns.
Bad fats are the real enemy, they promote inflammation, disrupt digestion, promote bad bugs in the gut, and make it hard to loose weight. Fats aren’t always the enemy but bad fats are! Choosing healthy fats that are minimally processed is the key to weight loss, a healthy digestive system and restful sleep.
Mike Phelps / Adria Ali