As the old saying goes, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. This may be true, but unfortunately for me this has never really been an option, as an accidental sugar addict, my sleep patterns up until I started to change.
Most people have a hard time connecting what they eat with how they sleep, I am no different. My life was all about catching up, I was waking up tried therefore the first thing I would do was go for the quick energy hit - coffee with sugar, sugar loaded muesli with low fat yoghurt. (Low fat usually means high sugar – learn how to read the labels and not make this common mistake).
I was never setting myself up to sleep, I never made the food, sugar connection, they say you are what you eat, I think I was a snickers bar – fast and jittery!
Not enough sleep - you're going to eat
We know that sleep has an effect on our eating habits—on what we consume, how much we consume, and how well we burn it off. Studies have shown that when we’re sleep deprived, we’re more likely to:
- Feel hungry, and consume more calories throughout the day
- Eat higher fat and calorie foods
- Burn calories less effectively
When we’re sleep deprived, we’re also just more likely to give in to temptation, and our judgment and willpower are going to be much weaker when we’re tired — meaning we’re more likely to reach for the cookie jar than the fruit bowl, or in my case the lolly jar!
The right diet can do wonders! For the past three weeks, I am eating whole, real foods; to help restore balance to insulin, cortisol, and other hormones, I have cleaned up my diet, cut back on coffee, eliminated processed foods, refined sugars and alcohol, I also eat regularly to avoid the short-term stress of starvation on my body.
I start my day and continue it with clean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries, and non-gluten grains. Food is information that controls your gene expression, hormones, and metabolism. When you eat the right foods, you balance blood sugar, restore hormonal balance, and sleep better!
Foods that help you sleep
There are a number of types of food that can aid sleep. Magnesium and potassium rich foods help promote relaxation and circulation. They include dark leafy greens, bananas, nuts, seeds, citrus, tomatoes, and whole grains. Foods high in calcium help to boost melatonin levels. In addition to dairy, fish, nuts, seeds, cherries and whole grains are strong calcium sources.
So, should you run out and buy a bag of dark leafy greens for a pre-bedtime snack? There is little question that a vitamin rich, and low-sugar diet is beneficial for your sleep. And the possibility that we might harness the power of our diet as a natural, low-cost, non-pharmacologic, answer to getting more sleep is an exciting one, I really believe that, but it is important to add I do not eat leafy greens as a pre-bedtime snack! I now include in my dinner plenty of all of the above, and I no longer desire a pre-bedtime snack…or the 2 cups of sugary tea I often had after work and before bed.
In summary the excessive amounts of sugar I was consuming had an interesting and not so pleasant effect on my body, simultaneously leaving me tired but also wired and overall, that is not a pretty picture. For me going to bed in the middle of a sugar high decreased the quality of my sleep, which lead to a day of drinking coffee, energy drinks and sweet foods…. a vicious cycle of self destruction, that only I could change. If you have been dealing with this as well, you can change as well!
– I will.