How your diet affect sleep
Michal, our CEO and founder, says that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Food tells the body the day has begun and provides the body with fuel and energy after an overnight fast. Eating a healthy meal will offer you with the correct vitamins and nutrients, helping to give you the cognitive functionality to survive the morning.
Louise Mercieca, a Nutritional Therapist, Author, Presenter on Early Years TV Food, and Founder of The Health Kick, suggests:
“To enable us to relax into a good-night’s sleep, we need to help our body in the circadian rhythm (our natural sleep/wake cycle). Nutritionally we can do this by boosting our levels of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Melatonin levels are increased as the body moves into the sleep cycle, but some foods help this whereas others hinder it.
“Examples of melatonin-boosting foods includes tomatoes, cherries, bananas, kiwi fruits, oats, pineapples, flaxseeds and orange peppers. Dairy products contain the amino acid tryptophan which the body uses to make serotonin, and serotonin converts to melatonin.
“Also try to avoid stimuli like sugar, this causes a disturbed night’s sleep and certainly a less restful night! Whilst it may feel like alcohol helps us to relax, it doesn’t last the whole night! Your sleep quality is likely to be lower following an alcoholic drink”.
Lee Chambers continued:
“As a precursor, we always suggest scheduling your eating so that you go to bed neither hungry nor still digesting a large meal. As digestion is such an energy-intensive process, it can be both disturbing, and our body struggles to flush our brain with glymphatic fluid if we are still using our energy to digest.
“Porridge often praised for its slow-release energy and beta-glucan content, is also great for supper. As it triggers a rise in blood sugar, we produce insulin which also triggers the release of Tryptophan and serotonin, chemicals that work within the brain to help relaxation, and combat anxiety. Warm milk, the traditional go-to bedtime drink of generations past, has both evidence for and against promoting sleep. But the calcium in milk is proven to stabilise nerve fibres in the brain, reducing stress, and it's also a source of Tryptophan.
“Almonds are a great source of magnesium, which is a vital compound in promoting quality, restful sleep. They also have a balanced nutritional profile, containing protein which helps keep our blood sugar stable while we sleep optimally. Dark chocolate is touted for its healthy antioxidant benefits. But it can contain a considerable amount of caffeine, which mimics adenosine and fills the receptors, promoting a feeling of not being tired and interrupting our ability to sleep. Caffeine has a half-life, so eat it earlier in the day.
“When it comes to foods to avoid, foods that are very high in fat have a tendency to disrupt sleep, as they take longer to digest, can induce night time toilet visits, and can leave you with that feeling of being uncomfortably full. Very spicy meals can also cause discomfort, and they can also raise your core body temperature, which needs to fall and stabilise for a restful night’s sleep. That's not even mentioning the chance of inducing that midnight heartburn!
“Citrus fruits are delicious and full of vitamins, but they are highly acidic and can increase the level of acidity in your stomach. Grapefruit is especially potent in this regard and should be avoided later in the day. For the same reasons, caffeinated drinks should be limited to the first half of your day, and you should set a curfew on your consumption to allow your body to process your earlier ingestion, so your adenosine can function without being impaired.
“Finally, avoid too may highly processed carbohydrates, as these can spike your blood sugar beyond the beneficial point for tryptophan and serotonin release, and leave you feeling fatigued and irritable, which can affect your ability to achieve a restful state”.
Jasmin Lee further added:
“Chamomile tea is also popular for insomnia, as it contains an antioxidant that's been found to reduce anxiety and induce calming effects. However, antioxidants aside, a warm cup of tea can be incorporated into a sleep routine to help soothe and prepare for bed.
“If you’re still hungry after dinner and can’t resist a late-night snack, avoid reaching for that pint of ice cream or bag of chips. Sweets, junk food, and spicy foods are high in calories and can trigger cravings for more food. These types of food can also hamper the body’s ability to fall asleep at night by causing acid reflux and indigestion, plus consuming peppers will heat your body and hamper its natural cooling process that helps you fall asleep at night”.
Angela Foster explains:
“Optimizing nutrition intake and the use of certain supplements can really help. These would include things like Magnesium which is a key mineral involved in over 300 metabolic reactions and has been shown to improve sleep quality. The amino acid Taurine from food or L-Taurine in supplement form can help before going to sleep to calm down and help with sleep onset and also deep sleep.
“Ensuring Zink is at optimal levels also helps with melatonin synthesis and Theanine, the amino acid that is found in green tea, helps to increase alpha brain waves and help with falling asleep. Medicinal herbs that affect GABA which is anxiety inhibiting neurotransmitters in the brain can also help to reduce stress and promote deeper sleep, so the use of Adaptogens such as Reishi mushrooms, ashwagandha, and Lion's mane and also herbs such as chamomile, valerian root, and lemon balm may also help to reduce stress, help with sleep and sleep quality”.
How lack of sleep can impact on productivity levels
Dennis Relojo-Howell, founder of psychology website Psychreg explains:
“Numerous of research shows that 7 hours of sleep each night is optimal in aiding alertness and productivity during the day. Too much sleep is one that exceeds nine hours; less than five hours is too few. Sleep deprivation can make us inefficient during the day – we won't have enough energy and can decrease our reaction times. Lack of sleep can also make us feel irritable and can also impair our concentration”.
Kirsty Hulse, Founder and Trainer at Roar Training:
“In a time of crisis sleep can evade us. Our patterns have changed, so likely in turn perhaps the time we typically go to bed and wake up have changed too. Research has shown phone time can repress melatonin and make it harder for us to fall into a deep sleep, so avoiding any screen time for an hour before bed can go a long way.
“Meditation has also been shown in research to improve the length, quality and deepness of sleep. For those new to meditating a quick google of "bedtime guided meditations" is an excellent start to simply follow along, without any judgement or expectation. Exercise has also been shown to aid sleep, so ensuring you are getting at least 30 minutes of elevated heart rate a day is key”.
Ben Greenfield, Author of Greenfield of Boundless: Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging adds:
“I began incorporating three primary practices from Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life that drastically improved my sleep quality. They were as follows: Go to bed at the same time each night, preferably before 10:30pm (although the best bedtime for you will depend on your chronobiology). Do some light exercise before breakfast. Avoid eating a mega-meal for dinner and instead make lunch the largest meal of the day”.
Award-winning & Bestselling Author Pamela Sommers says:
“Prepare your to-do list the evening before for the next day. This way, you are ready to go from the start. Routines are important to maintain productivity - the following times can be arranged to suit your lifestyle”:
7am – Wake up. Say or think of 3 things you are grateful for in your life, this sets you up feeling good and with a positive start. Clear your head, this could be with a prayer, meditation or intention for the day. It helps you feel focused before you start your tasks 8am – An early morning workout or light exercise can get your energy levels up and help you feel motivated and ready to go 30am – Eat breakfast, this is fuel for the body. Drinking water and staying hydrated throughout the day will help you stay alert 9am – Go through any emails, messages and prioritise ones that need attention. If urgent respond, if not set a reminder to respond to them at. Turn off notifications prior to starting your work 30am – Start working through the list, one task at a time. It is better to complete one task before moving onto another 11am – Take a break then check emails, notifications, etc. 30am – Resume working 30pm – Take a lunch break 30pm – Resume working 3pm – Take a break, check notifications. A quick meditation can also aid as a pick-me-up to regain focus 30pm – Finish off list 5pm – Start planning for next day. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve got accomplished. This encourages you and makes you feel good 6pm - 10pm – Leisure 6-7pm – Cook and eat dinner 9pm – Turn off all your electronic devices i.e. mobile phones, tablets, etc. This will give your mind a chance to rest and switch off from work 10pm – Bedtime. Having regular bedtime will help you sleep better and recharge, this enables you to be more productive the next day. It’ll help you mentally and physically
How mindfulness can help
Chloe Jessamy, owner and Lead Virtual Assistant at Supportal Business Services gives her tips:
“My first tip is to incorporate a sleep routine like you do with everything else in your life. Having a routine, knowing when it’s time to switch off is crucial to your productivity otherwise you will continue to push yourself, there’s always something to be done.
“Use the last hour or two of your day before bed winding down, reading, a hot bath etc. Picking up emails and answering texts late at night could lead to a peak in emotions causing a restless sleep having an effect on your daily productivity.
“Screen time is not just for kids: stop taking your phone to bed, give yourself time away from laptops, phones even tv’s at least an hour before bed-time. Treat it as your very own shut down mode sequence”.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming Trainer Rebecca Lockwood commented:
“Tip 1: Visualize a happy past memory. If you are struggling to fall asleep when you do get into bed, take yourself back to a memory in the past where you were really happy. Allow yourself to see what you saw, feel what you felt and see it as if you are there now. Allow yourself to remain there and live out that experience again until you drift off.
“Tip 2: Switch off from your phone. It is so easy to get absorbed in our phones, even sitting watching TV on an evening we find ourselves checking messages and social media. It is an ingrained behaviour and habit for a lot of people in the current society. So, when you finish for the day and log off, leave your phone in another room or switch it off so you are not tempted to check out notifications constantly. Especially if your work is done a lot on social media as it will never end and leave you feeling disheartened and without the space to switch off.
“Tip 3: Place your hand on your heart and check in with yourself. We search outside of ourselves in an attempt to give ourselves meaning. When we come back into ourselves and really check in with us and who we are the whole world shifts around us, including the way we think, feel and the way we show up in the world. Place your hand on your heart, take a few deep breaths, and settle yourself with the strength of your beating heart. Just sit and listen to the beating of your heart and the sound of your breath. You can do this for seconds, minutes or an hour. This helps us get out of our heads and into our heart, our heart always knows the answer”.
Pamela Sommers suggests to:
“Get into the present moment. Put your hand on your heart, take a slow deep breath in and exhale slowly 3 times. Let go of any negativity or anything you couldn’t control during the day, imagine them like dark clouds leaving your shoulders as you slowly exhale. Then think of 3 things that went well or made you smile today as you slowly breathe in and out. This puts you into a calm and reassuring state, ideal for bedtime because you feel safe, secure and that all is well in your life”.
How scent can help you drift off
Geraldine McCullagh, a registered Clinical Aromatherapist at Me-Time Therapies says:
“Scents that can help you relax include: bergamot, which can result in feeling relaxed and their spirits uplifted; lavender, which reduces muscle tension, and is regularly used to aid sleep; and geranium, which helps us to feel emotionally balanced and helps to reduce anxiety caused by stress and overwork”.
Pamela Sommers closes with:
“Placing a few drops of lavender essential oil around can also help as the scent can relax you and act as a comforting reminder in your mind that it’s ok to rest. This reiterates the message that it’s safe to sleep, especially if you do this regularly after breathing exercises, as this will build association by connecting the scent to the reassuring state”.
We hope the advice in the article helps to answer any questions you may have about getting better sleep.