Tired, grumpy, bad day at work, chaotic welcome home and all you want to do is…eat; To gorge, or graze on something high-carb, sugar-frosted or salt-crusted. Scientists now say that there is a direct connection between what you eat and how you sleep, and…what you eat when you don’t sleep.
We’ll review why this happens and how you can modify your diet to ensure healthy living and sound sleeping.
In the pharma and healthcare section of Forbes magazine this month, contributor Alice G. Walton wrote about a study from Columbia University Medical Center that found “…over just a few nights, diet can make a difference in sleep quality.” The report says, “People who ate higher-fat, lower-fiber diets were more likely to sleep poorly that night than when they ate a healthier diet.” They concluded a new tenet of sleep hygiene might be to forego the fatty food before we go to sleep.
In fact, Walton introduces this premise by stating, “…the old saying, ‘you are what you eat,’ may need an addendum: ‘you sleep how you eat.’
We agree. In the sleep science world, there have been known correlations between what you eat during the day, and how lack of sleep effects how you eat the next day, and so-on; Creating this awful cycle of eating the wrong foods, quick weight gain and no sleep.
Here’s how: Foods that are simple carbs and high in sugar content cause your body sugar levels to spike, creating artificial and short-lasting energy boosts. Greasy foods high in bad fat content and processed foods are harder for your body to breakdown. So with your body working overtime between the energy rush and the processing of bad fat and unnatural substances which emit toxins, the last thing it will be able to do is sleep.
So there’s that.
Then, when you can’t sleep – your body produces a few hunger hormones. “Ghrelin” which makes you feel hungrier and want to eat more – all the time and Cortisol, the “stress” hormone. Paired with Ghrelin, which makes you feel hungrier, Cortisol “permits” your body to store fat it otherwise would not. Adding to that, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Your body basically goes into a semi-survival mode, wanting you to eat and store a lot of food but using very little energy to get rid of it. Bummer.
Scientists from Columbia University say it’s easy for this cycle to begin, continue and for you to see the effects within relatively a short amount of time. “In fact, a study a couple of years ago found that when people were deprived of just 1.5 hours of sleep one night, they were more likely to consume 500 calories more the next day. Which suggests there may be a vicious cycle of eating poorly, sleeping less, and eating poorly, and so on.”
So…how do we break the cycle?
Let’s begin with adequate hydration. Water, water — and if you have any questions, more water. You need 8, 8oz glasses a day. Many overeat (things that are not good for their body) because they have confused thirst with hunger.
A good diet begins and ends with flushing out toxins and getting the right amount of nutrients to cells and tissue, which only H2O can do. Drink water like it’s your job.
Next, what type of solid food should you eat that will help your body decompress and relax like it should when it’s bedtime? This means not only what not to consume, but also what you can eat (some food items close to bedtime, will promote effective sleeping).
A healthy diet that is the right mix of nutrients to help muscles grow and rehabilitate from exercise and other stressors, consists of high-fiber (whole grains, legumes), low/good fat (salmon, plain yogurt), vitamin-rich (tart cherry juice , which also contains melatonin – little known fact, kale, bananas) food.
Avoid alcohol – your body processes it quickly and while you may feel drowsy drinking it, you’ll be wide awake well into the night.
Alcohol of any kind is “terrible” for sleep, says Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. Why? It metabolizes quickly in your system and causes you to wake up multiple times during the night.
One study found that a glass of bourbon or vodka mixed with caffeine-free soda at bedtime increased the amount of time women spent awake during the night by 15 minutes. It also reduced nightly sleep time by 19 minutes and diminished quality of sleep.
If you don’t refrain from alcohol for our own benefit, do it for your mate. “Alcohol makes snoring worse so it will impact you and your potential bed partner,” said Rosenberg.
Consistency is also key in maintaining good sleep nutrition, which is a critical part of sleep hygiene and overall health. Get into the habit of practicing these daily, and get to sleep and stay asleep every night.
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National Sleep Foundation