What’s your diet doing for you?
Your hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins and other chemical factors – all of which you need in healthy doses for sleep – depend on an adequate supply of vitamins, minerals, amino and essential fatty acids, which we should be able to get from our diet.
Unfortunately, most modern diets have too much sugar, processed foods and the wrong kinds of fats, none of which have any, or very few, nutrients. Additionally, toxins from certain foods can build up and affect our sleep too.
That’s where the Sleep Well Sleep Diet can help. Created by our in-house nutritionist, it identifies exactly which foods, in exactly what quantities, can help you get a good night’s sleep. SLEEP DIET COMING SOON
Fibre vs. Fat
Meanwhile, do you get adequate fibre in your diet? A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2016 stated that: “Low fiber and high saturated fat and sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals”. In other words, eat more fibre and reduce fat and sugar and you’re likely to experience deeper sleep.
Tryptophan, Serotonin and Carbohydrates
Promote a good night’s sleep by padding your diet with vitamins, minerals and amino acids that support serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin (the ‘sleep hormone’). Foods high in tryptophan are most beneficial. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in proteins and it, in turn, is a precursor to serotonin. But in order for tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier to be converted to serotonin and then melatonin, you need to eat some carbs with it. If you eat protein by itself, larger amino acids will compete with the tryptophan for entry to the brain, and tryptophan will always luck out. (Which is exactly why those folks on extremely low carb diets, like the ketogenic diet, sleep poorly.)
How does it work?
When carbs are eaten, insulin levels increase, which lowers the amount of amino acids in the blood, except for tryptophan. That’s because tryptophan binds to the protein albumin, which allows it to remain unaffected by insulin. Tryptophan then gets its chance to cross the blood-brain barrier.
So eat carbs with your protein, and consume foods that are high in tryptophan, like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Other foods with good levels of tryptophan include oats, tofu, cheese, eggs, chicken and turkey, beans and lentils.
But choose your carbs carefully. Foods high in sugar raise insulin levels rapidly but they also drop rapidly. If you eat a high-sugar dinner, you’re likely to wake up during the night due to low blood sugar levels. Choose whole grains, low-sugar fruits and vegetables.
Sleep Well Sleep Diet
If you need some more guidance with food choices and menus, check out our Sleep Well Sleep Diet.