How to get better sleep through diet:
Take back your days by hacking your nights
Hack Your Sleep: Part One
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In this series, we will be discussing how to optimize your sleep health, the reasons for having trouble sleeping through the night, and sharing how to get better sleep at night with scientifically backed hacks, allowing you to be more rested with less hours in bed.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly half of American adults report that they have suffered from insomnia at one time or another. In our caffeine driven, high stress society, we are often encouraged to self-medicate, or power through our ineffective sleep patterns, rather than build a good sleep pattern and improve our sleep health. However, the quality of your sleep will not just affect your nights. Improving the effectiveness of your sleep can allow you to function at a higher level during the day with less time in bed, adding hours to your days
An oft ignored cause of poor sleep health is our diets. Today, we will share how to take back your nights, get better sleep, and build a good sleep pattern through a well monitored sleep diet. No need to be worried about another set of restrictions on your diet…many of the foods that are good for your sleep health are held in common with a healthy mind diet.
In today’s post, you will find:
- How diet and sleep are related, including:
- how overall caloric intake affects sleep
- the foods that are drugging you, including the effects of caffeine on sleep
- how actual drugs affect sleep, including the effects of alcohol on sleep
- the foods that help you sleep
- How to counteract the effects of low sleep with diet, including:
- preparing yourself for the way low sleep affects your cravings
- how to properly regulate the appetite regulating, fat burning hormone leptin
- A free quick reference sheet listing the foods to avoid and the foods to consume in order to promote healthy sleep
How Diet and Sleep Affect Each Other
How drugs affect sleep health
It may be a bit of a stretch to label drugs as a part of a diet, but this is too important of a topic to ignore as we discuss a sleep diet. Recognizing the negative effects of drugs may seem like a no-brainer, but many times, just because a drug is not illicit, we forget that it can still have a substantial negative affect on different aspects of our lives. We are not saying that in order to lead a productive life, you must eliminate all medicinal and legal drugs completely, we are simply advocating education of the effects they hold, in order that you can work to counteract or eliminate these effects, through moderation and other strategies.
We have consolidated a list of the most commonly overlooked drugs that have a substantial impact on your sleep health.
- Effects of alcohol on sleep
While alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep, a recent review of 27 studies of the effect of alcohol on sleep indicates it will end up hurting your sleep health in the long run. Alcohol reduces the amount of REM sleep (important for brain health and body functions), increases snoring and other respiratory problems, and interrupts the circadian rhythms of sleep. Based on these studies, it is recommended that you don’t drink any alcohol 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
- Effects of nicotine on sleep
How does nicotine affect sleep? According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine Reviews, nicotine suppresses REM sleep, interrupts sleep during the night, and makes it harder to fall asleep, although the benefits of quitting smoking is often masked by withdrawal symptoms.
- Effects of sleep aids on sleep health
Although sleep aids can help through temporary periods of sleep interruption (newborn child; new sleep schedule; or high stress circumstances, such as a job change, or coping with the death of a loved one), doctors caution that sleeping pills are not a long-term solution.
The foods that are drugging you and stealing your sleeping
Medicinal or scientifically labeled drugs may not be the only substances that are negatively affecting your sleep. There are a few substances contained in the natural foods that we consume that can have a drug like effect on our sleep.
- Effects of caffeine on sleep
While everyone has different reactions and sensitivities to caffeine, recent studies indicate that caffeine can have an affect on your sleep health for up to 12 hours after consumption. A study from 2013 found that caffeine taken up to 6 hours before bedtime reduced total sleep and sleep effectiveness.
- Natural stimulants
Caffeine is not the only natural stimulant, although there is less research regarding others. Regardless, it would be beneficial to err on the side of caution and avoid other natural “stimulants”, such as the B vitamins and sugar, in large doses a few hours before bed.
How to get better sleep by building a well-monitored sleep diet
Monitoring your overall intake can have a positive effect on your sleep health. A 3 year study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found a link between higher caloric intake and less sleep. Another study from the Columbia University Medical Center found a correlation between diets high in saturated fat plus sugar and low in dietary fiber and lighter sleep patterns and a difficulty in falling asleep.
Spicy or acidic foods have been linked with nighttime heartburn and should be avoided, especially by those who already suffer from acid reflux.
How to get better sleep with foods that help you sleep
Although the amount in most foods is considered insignificant, tryptophan (found in turkey, milk, etc.) is an amino acid that is known to induce sleep by increasing the amounts of serotonin (a natural sedative) in the brain. Simple carbs (such as honey) increase the amount of tryptophan absorbed by the brain, while vitamin B6 helps convert it into serotonin, so the combination of these 3 ingredients can make up a great before bedtime snack.
Certain herbs have also been shown to promote sleep health, although more research is required to solidify this link. Valerian (available in capsule or powder form from most supplement aisles) has the most data behind it, although the data behind peppermint and chamomile as a sleep aid is growing everyday.
How to Counteract the Negative Relationship Between Diet and Sleep Reduction
As you examine this data and begin to optimize your sleep, there is an important rule to remember (which applies to any other biohack you are considering implementing). Educate yourself, not only on the generic research, but on the specific effects you may find apply to yourself through careful measurement, and prepare to counteract any negative effects you expect or observe.
A 1999 study conducted by the University of Chicago measured the glucose and insulin levels of healthy, young adults as they voluntarily reduced their daily sleep to 4 hours or less. After 1 week, glucose and insulin levels became the same as an unhealthy, diabetic patient.
Another study found a link between not enough sleep and a lack of self-control in turning down unhealthy food.
Perhaps the most significant impact of reduced sleep is on leptin levels. Leptin is an important appetite regulating hormone that significantly contributes to your body’s ability to shred fat. Lower amounts of sleep are shown to contribute to a leptin deficiency, reducing leptin levels by as much as 15%.
Diet and sleep are not a one-way sleep, with improper quality and amounts of either being shown to negatively affect the other. If you are trying to improve the quality of one, it is important to examine the other as well.
✓ Find out what is killing the quality of your sleep
✓ Find out which foods will help you fall asleep naturally
✓ Which herbs and minerals to take to fall asleep faster
You can download the worksheet by clicking here
Our dietary choices can either negatively or positively affect our sleep and vice-versa (our sleep choices can either negatively or positively affect our dietary choices).
In the next part of our Meditation for Entrepreneurs series, we will be sharing how our lifestyle choices affect our sleep health and how to increase the effectiveness of your sleep through a few simple changes to your daily routine. Subscribe below to receive the latest body and nutrition hacks and optimization tips for entrepreneurs.
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