At stressful times in life, sleep can be elusive. The effects of not getting eight hours of quality sleep a night can be far more harmful than just feeling tired the next day.
The best way to ensure you get quality sleep is to program your body into a sleep routine. That’s where your diet comes in.
A healthier and more regular eating routine will lead to a healthier and more regular sleep routine.
The reason for this is that food helps to set your body’s cortisol rhythm. Cortisol is an essential hormone which controls not only sleep patterns but many other bodily functions such as energy production, muscle strength and resistance to infection. The hormone is produced in cycles and, in a healthily regulated body, more is released in the morning than in the evening, allowing for energy during the day and rest during the night.
An irregular metabolism will lead to irregular cortisol production which, in turn, will lead to irregular sleep patterns.
These eight dietary tips are medically proven to help people get eight hours of quality sleep a night by improving cortisol cycles:
1. Avoid Sugar
Sugar has all sorts of adverse health effects and one of these is sleep. If you find yourself low on energy in the afternoons and reach for sugary snacks, you are likely to compound any problems with the length or quality of your sleep. Instead, ensure that you eat regular meals throughout the day and choose high protein or fiber snacks, like nuts and seeds, instead of sugary ones.
2. Avoid Excess Starch
Starches in white bread and pasta tend to slow your metabolism and upset cortisol rhythms. Choose whole-grain bread or pasta instead as these are higher in fiber and lead to better metabolism and better sleep.
3. Eat Regular Low Glycemic Index Meals
Foods with high sugar and low fiber content have a high glycemic index and foods with high fibers and low sugars are low glycemic index. Plan to eat smaller meals with a low glycemic index throughout the day: approximately 5 small meals at 2-hour intervals. This will eliminate highs and lows in blood sugar throughout the day and regulate energy levels, cortisol production, and sleep patterns.
4. Choose Gluten Grains Carefully
If gluten is a large part of your diet, ensure that you choose the types of grains you consume carefully. Sprouted gluten grains (or ancient grains) metabolize far more quickly than non-sprouted grains and help to regulate the bodily rhythms that lead to better sleep.
5. Eat Breakfast Daily
Eating breakfast has long been known to have a huge effect on energy levels during the day but is now also connected to the quality of sleep. Experts suggest that by eating breakfast by 7 am each day, you will feel more satisfied throughout the day and be able to avoid cravings for starch and sugar that will affect your sleep. It will also ensure that your body is able to make the right amount of cortisol for the day and rest at night.
6. Avoid Stimulants after 3 pm
Common stimulants include caffeine, sugar, alcohol and nicotine. To ensure that your brain and body are ready for sleep, these should be avoided in the hours leading up to going to bed or, if possible, cut out altogether.
7. Try and Set Patterns by Eating, Going to Bed and Waking at the Same Times Each Day
In order to relax into quality sleep, your body needs to know what to expect. Set routines by eating meals at approximately the same time each day and going to bed at the same time. It is recommended that you give the body at least 4 hours to metabolize the evening meal by eating at 6pm and going to bed at 10pm each day. This way you can sleep for between 8 and 9 hours before eating breakfast at 7am.
8. Combine Regular Exercise with Good Nutrition
Regular exercise goes hand in hand with good diet and will also lead to better sleep. Try and include 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, such as walking or running, after breakfast and after your evening meal.
A Good Metabolism Leads to Better Sleep and Better Sleep Leads to a Happier Life
If you want to get better sleep, the place to begin is with your metabolism. By setting good dietary routines, you can program your cortisol rhythms so that you have more energy and clarity of thought during the day and eight hours of high-quality sleep during the night.
The key is to set routines and avoid foods and habits which disrupt these routines.