How to Fuel Sleep

by in Nutrition on
how to sleep better

The time right now is 7.30am and I can't help but ponder about how many people are already feeling tired and reaching for their first of probably many cups of coffee for the day. How many people are reflecting upon a restless nights sleep, praying silently to the gods of small miracles that they can squeeze just enough life out of themselves to get through at least the working day. We all feel like this from time to time but if this is generally your morning routine then it may be worth reading the rest of this article as the reasons for why you may be feeling like this and the simple changes you can make to change it forever may surprise you.

According to the NHS at least one third of people struggle with sleep in the UK and the number is rising. There are lots of factors that can affect the quality of your sleep from stress, depression and medication but with this being a Train Learn Go article we are going to focus specifically on the impact that your nutritional choices make on the quality of your sleep.

good things to eat before bed

Worst Things To Eat Before Bed

Lets start with the less obvious one which is fat. For the record fat is not bad especially mono-unsaturated fat. In fact around 30% of your nutritional intake should be comprised of fat. However with that said eating it in large quantities either consistently throughout your day or just before bed may not be a great idea when it comes to getting a good nights shut eye.

Fat takes an awfully long time to digest and is a very labor intensive biological process. Fat lingers in your stomach for a rather a long time, around 5 hours or so. This can lead to a general feeling of being over full which will make you feel uncomfortable and in some people can cause acid reflux/heartburn which can also keep you awake.

Next up is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which basically means that it stimulates your central nervous system and makes you more alert. This is why the drug can help you through a boring meeting with your boss but wouldn't make much sense to consume just before bed time. A study showed that the half-life of caffeine in healthy adults is 5.7 hours. This means if you consume 200mg of caffeine (An average cup of coffee) at mid-day, you would still have 100mg in you at around 5.45pm so simply 'not drinking caffeine after 5pm' wont cut the mustard unfortunately.

If you want more energy and you want to sleep better permanently then either switch to de-caff or stop consuming caffeine totally.
That's right you heard us, replace the coffee with good old fashioned H2O and guess what? You'll feel considerably better within a matter of days. Give it a go!

Last but not least on today's hit list is alcohol. Contrary to popular belief alcohol actually makes you sleep lighter not deeper. When you have a boozy session close to bedtime you will fall asleep and go straight into deep sleep totally missing out on the lighter sleep phase known as REM sleep.

As the 6 pints of lager and 2 Sambuca&'s start to wear off you will transition back into REM sleep which is much easier to wake from. Couple this with the depressing effect alcohol has on your central nervous system causing you to snore at an apocalyptic volume only rivaled by a jet fighter breaking the speed of sound and you are either going to constantly keep waking yourself up or your significant other is going to pound on you. Either way you're not getting much kip. Then there's the sweating, with alcohol being a diuretic you will expel water every which way you can so you'll wake for a wee wee several times and you will sweat a sweat that would make an Olympic swimmer feel bone dry. Again this does not make for a comfy sleep.

good things to eat before bed

Best Things To Eat Before Bed

As we have now learned whats best not to eat before sleepy byes it only seems fair that we give you some advice on what you should eat before taking a trip to the land of nod. First of all lets address the amount of energy you will burn whilst asleep, obviously this figure would depend on your gender, lean mass volume, medication and general level of fitness but as a rough guide it would not be ridiculous to assume that Joe Average would utilize between 600-700kcals during a typical 8 hour sleep.
Now clearly these calories have to come from somewhere, just because your car is parked on the drive ticking over does not mean that it isn't burning any fuel. The car would still need an amount of Diesel/Petrol to fuel its sedentary state and us humans are no different at all.

A common misconception is that people should not eat after a certain time at night, this frankly is ridiculous and follows no logic based on the amount of energy we get through whilst having a nap. The best thing to do is to keep eating right up until the moment you shut your eyes. Yes we know, shock horror, my Mom told me to never sleep on a full stomach and if I eat after 6pm my food will turn to fat blah blah blah.

All of these myths are about as legit as big-foot, yeti's, and the Loch Ness monster. However what you eat is relatively crucial.

As mentioned above fat isn't the best idea in large volumes so anyone want to hazard a guess at what might be? Anyone? Want to phone a friend?

I'll save you the 90's game show puns and just come right out with it.
Carbohydrates, specifically polysaccharides or in other words high fibre, whole grain carbs such as cereals, rice, pasta and vegetables. Before you all start metaphorically burning this article at the stake please remember that carbs are the human bodies preferred energy source and that the fibre level of a polysaccharide is high which slows downs liver conversion and digestive transit whilst at the same time allowing the food to pass out of your stomach faster than fat.

This basically means that the 700kcals that you are burning through the night are being fueled efficiently from the food you ate (plus some body fat) rather than your stored glycogen or lean masses. This means you sleep well as you are properly fueled and wake up energized as your glycogen levels are within their normal range. Starting to make sense yet?

So essentially what we are saying is that you should eat every couple of hours right up until the point that you decide to go to sleep. Whether that be 8pm after a long day or following a Game Of Thrones super marathon at 3am. If the engine is running then it needs fueling and the longer its running for the more fuel it needs, simple. So no alcohol, no caffeine, plenty of water, reduce your fat intake in the last few hours before bed and eat your greens and you'll wake happier, fresher and ready to take on the world! Or at least the 9-5 anyway.

Latest update: 09/09/2016

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