Food To Help You Sleep

Sleep better with food

Sleep has become a topic of great interest over the past 12 months from vivid dreams to restless nights, with many suffering from both. While a hot shower before you settle into bed, less screen time and a dark room will help, you may not realise food can help you sleep and what you eat may have the biggest influence on your quality night’s rest.

Hormones wreaking havoc 

Generally, sleep deprivation causes quite the stir in our hormones affecting our mood, energy levels and appetite. A 2004 study by The University of Chicago put this to the test by taking a group of healthy volunteers and restricting their sleep to just 4 hours for two nights in a row. The influence on hormone levels was astounding; there was an average 28 percent increase of ghrelin (a hormone that triggers hunger) and an average 18 percent decrease of leptin (a hormone that communicates to the brain that you are satisfied). Unsurprisingly, the increased hunger had a desire for salty, fatty and starchy foods.1

Interestingly, the same researchers did a follow up study in 2015 on prediabetic men. They found that a poor night’s rest reduced the efficacy of insulin to regulate blood sugars.2 This finding has been echoed numerous times with a clear scientific recognition that lack of sleep is heavily connected to insulin resistance and weight gain. 

King’s College London spent some time conducting a meta-analysis, combining the results of a high number of small studies, on increased energy intake as a result of sleep deprivation. Remarkably, researchers found that those deprived of sleep eat an average of 385 additional calories each day, compared to their usual intake.3 

Other consequences of sleep deprivation

  • Low sex drive. Those suffering from regular lack of sleep often experience low libido. 
  • Poor immunity. There is a common connection between sleep deprivation and those more prone to infections and viruses. See a quick guide from Dr Clare Bailey for building immunity here
  • Memory loss. Deep sleep is needed to clean the brain each night. Without it, toxins can build up exposing you to risk of Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.
  • Increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is linked to raised blood pressure and cholesterol, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
  • Daytime drowsiness. Few people understand the severe consequences of daytime drowsiness. Fatigue, and moreover slow reaction times, causes up to 20 percent of car accidents.4 This puts not only you, but a significant number of people in danger.

Eat to sleep 

While your quality of sleep evidently has an impact on what you eat, the same applies vice versa. Both the food we eat and our eating habits can influence our sleep patterns and behaviours. 

Many embark on The Fast 800 lifestyle to lose weight, restore insulin levels and achieve a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Shortly after they begin, they come to discover that improved sleep and mood are also glorious results of the lifestyle. A collection of reasons, all scientifically proven, are behind improved sleeping patterns of The Fast 800 members, from the Mediterranean-style diet to time-restricted eating. 

Spotlighting the Mediterranean-style diet

The 2019 MEAL study looked at the link between the sleep quality of Italian adults and the diet they were following. The participants were divided into groups based on their adherence to a Mediterranean diet and depicted their M score from this (an M score is generated on how compliant you are to a Mediterranean diet). When looking at the participants quality of sleep, the study concluded that those with a higher M score were twice as likely to enjoy a good quality night’s sleep and were less likely to have a disturbed night. Interestingly, these results were only found in those that were healthy or overweight; participants who were obese, regardless of diet, suffered from poor quality sleep. 

What’s more interesting is that the findings of this study have been confirmed multiple times, in both observational and interventional studies and all conclude the same hypothesis: the higher your M score, the better you sleep. 

Great food to help you sleep: 

  • Oily fish is high in both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, both of which have been recognised to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is later converted into melatonin, the sleep hormone. 
  • Nuts and seeds are high in magnesium. Magnesium, commonly referred to as the sleep mineral, helps to reduce adrenaline levels and relaxes the brain. 
  • Green vegetables help the production of melatonin; melatonin naturally occurs in broccoli, asparagus and cucumber so make sure you pack plenty of vegetables into your diet. 

Gut health

Mediterranean diets increase the good bacteria in our guts and essentially make us feel good through the production of serotonin. Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter and converts into melatonin in the evenings; melatonin is the hormone responsible for sleep. As well as this, when we feel good, we are reducing our stress and anxiety levels which ultimately will ensure we sleep better. 

Eating food high in dietary fibre may improve gut health and help you sleep. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt can grow good bacteria in your gut. Also, diversifying your microbiome through diet, by eating a diverse range of whole foods, correlates with better quality of sleep, as recognised by numerous studies. 

Time restricted eating

It’s not only food that help you sleep but your eating habits too. Time Restricted Eating (TRE) plays an important role in The Fast 800 with many members choosing to incorporate it into their routine, with the support of our expert Health Coaches. TRE consists of reducing your “eating window” to 10-12 hours each day and fast for the remainder, giving your body time to run down glucose stores, rest and repair. By practising TRE, it’s likely you’ll have finished eating your last meal a few hours before going to bed. This will slow down digestive activity close to bedtime, reduce your body temperature and give your brain signals that it’s ready to switch off. 

“Now that I’m following the theory behind The Fast 800, my sleep has definitely improved. I feel so much more energetic.”

The Fast 800 online programme has an extensive collection of learning resources, all designed to offer practical tips on upgrading your lifestyle to achieve a better night’s rest.  By following the online programme,  you’ll see benefits to your metabolic health, weight and sleep, while reducing daily stresses through simple, sustainable food and lifestyle changes.


References

[1] University Of Chicago Medical Center. “Sleep Loss Boosts Appetite, May Encourage Weight Gain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2004

[2] Pamidi S, Wroblewski K, Stepien M, et al. Eight Hours of Nightly Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Improves Glucose Metabolism in Patients with Prediabetes. A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015;192(1):96-105. doi:10.1164/rccm.201408-1564OC

[3] Al Khatib HK, Harding SV, Darzi J, Pot GK. The effects of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017 May;71(5):614-624. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.201. Epub 2016 Nov 2. PMID: 27804960

[4] Jim Horne and Louise Reyner, Sleep Related Vehicle Accidents. Sleep Research Laboratory, Loughborough University, 2000

The Fast 800 Online Programme

Looking for support to achieve your health goals? This science-based food and exercise guide provides the support and flexibility to help you lose weight for better health. Find out more!

  • Tasty, easy recipes, designed by our nutritionist. Try some today!
  • Weekly meal plans. Shopping lists done for you.
  • Home-based HIIT and exercise guides.
  • Health Coach motivation and practical support.

Subscribe to our Newsletter