We all know how important sleep in terms of how we feel the next day. But a good solid sleep routine impacts our overall health more than any other aspect of our day to day habits. A good night’s sleep makes us feel like we can do anything; energy is good, motivation is high, gym sessions are smashed and our food is A1…
On the other hand – a bad night’s sleep and the world is suddenly a darker place. It’s a struggle to get out of bed, forget the gym and pass me that packet of biscuits while I’m four seasons deep on Netflix…
Sleep really is a powerful thing…
Some studies suggest that when we are sleep deprived, our body goes into survival mode. We are merely surviving, not thriving…Then we add in the fact we are trying to diet, trying to lose weight and the body doesn’t know what to be doing with itself!
The lack of sleep doesn’t just turn us all into moody teenagers, it is also associated with a higher risk of obesity, increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease and an increase in our waist line.
One of the ways it does this is by modifying our hunger and satiety, so we suddenly start to crave more calorific (low nutrient foods) sugary food we wouldn’t normally eat, and course, once we start, we can’t stop. Studies show that even one bad night’s sleep can warrant an increase of up to 40% in cravings (*based on a reduction of 3 hours for 1 night).
Sleep affects two appetite-controlling hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin will signal to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat, meaning that when leptin levels are high, our appetite is reduced. Ghrelin does the opposite – when ghrelin levels are high, you don’t feel satisfied by the food that you have eaten. Dr. Walker (one of the world’s leading sleep experts) reports that when people are deprived of sleep, these two hormones essentially go in opposite directions – there’s a marked drop in leptin, meaning an increase in appetite, while grehlin rockets up, leaving people unsatisfied.
In a nutshell, sleep affects what we eat and what we eat affects our sleep!
The following are some dietary tips that might help improve your sleep patterns:
1. Alcohol & Caffeine – It’s a boring one, but reducing alcohol and caffeine can have a massive affect on the amount and quality of your sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep but will negatively affect the quality and duration of your sleep. Putting a deadline on your caffeine intake by no later than 2pm, will also help lull you to sleep a little easier as caffeine can stay in your system for 6-8 hours. It’s also notable in that while you may be able to have caffeine and fall asleep, it can still affect the quality and depth of your sleep.
2. Late night dinner- This one is a little trickier and may be take some playing around with. Eating a heavy, slower digested dinner late at night may have a negative affect on both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin. In saying that, some easily digested carb meals may actually help to trigger serotonin and result in a better quality sleep. Try adding some rice to an evening meal or some porridge as nighttime snack.
3. Check your calories – Being on a very restrictive diet and reducing your calories can have a negative affect on sleep quality. While most of the research suggests that this only applies after being on a restricted diet for a longer period of time, there is research showing that a very large calorie deficit can have an almost immediate effect on sleep quality.
Some bonus tips for sleep from Dr. Matthew Walker:
1. Find a routine
2. Cut the late night cardio
3. Reduce caffeine & nicotine
4. Reduce Alcohol
5. Eat light at night
6. Talk to your Doc about medication timing & side affects
7. Leave time to unwind
8. Baths are best
9. Check your devices at the bed room door
10. Get some Sun
11. Avoid lying in bed for too long