It’s crunch time: can certain foods help you sleep?

If you’re like us, your eating habits are probably a bit all over the shop at the moment. The biscuit tin is now closer than ever and we have way more time to think about those tempting treats in our cupboards. But have you ever stopped to think about how certain foods could be impacting your sleep? 

As part of our unwind with eve sleep well series, we’ve been helping you find the best ways to boost your nights (and mornings) as we all continue with our life at home. And now it’s time to put food in the spotlight. Read on for the scoop on food vs sleep.

The (tasty) truth

It’s a fact: our choice of food determines our snooze patterns. According to our sleep expert and naturopath Dave Gibson, giving our bodies a healthy balance of fats, carbs and proteins helps us to drift off as we are able to give our body the nutrients it needs to refuel while we sleep. It’s when we incorrectly fuel our bodies that’s the problem, though, as we’re more likely to snack closer to bedtime and disrupt our sleep patterns due to poor digestion or pesky sugar highs. 

And when we wake up tired, we’re even MORE tempted by the legendary biscuit tin: “The hormone which tells us we’re full (leptin) is reduced and the hormone that tells us we’re hungry (ghrelin) goes into overdrive,” says Dave. 

So if we’re feeling groggy after a restless night due to that spicy korma we ate at 9pm, we’ll be sleepy the next day, likely to overeat and tempted to reach for the unhealthy comfort food, which then impacts our sleep again. Can you see a pattern emerging? Us too – but luckily we have a brilliant solution.

Superhero foods 

So what can we pack in to make sure we clock in those zzz’s? “There are a host of amino acids, enzymes, nutrients, chemicals and hormones which work together to promote good sleep and regulate the sleep cycle,” says Dave. Check out his delicious top picks below:

    • Fruit: Don’t eye-roll us just yet. Fruit can be an absolute saviour for sleep, particularly those that are high in antioxidants such as tart (Montmorency) cherries. Deemed a ‘sleep superfood’, tart cherries contain melatonin, the sleep hormone, which can support our precious sleep. Try Dave’s fabulous fruit salad recipe for starters. 
    • Calcium: A top nutrient for helping us to relax, calcium can be found in dairy products such as natural yoghurt or cheese, but is also in abundance in leafy green vegetables like broccoli and bok choy. Get chomping, folks.
    • Vitamin D: A wonderful vitamin that supports our calcium absorption, vitamin D can be found in eggs, fatty fish and bananas. You can also give your body a boost by getting out in the sun (as if we needed another excuse…). If you want to create your own elixir at home, try our bedtime banana tea recipe to get you settled and ready for bed.
    • Nuts: Walnuts and almonds contain melatonin (the sleep hormone) and essential fatty acids which are thought to aid sleep and rest. Try a handful before bed or enjoy them in our tasty sleeper’s fruit salad.
    • Magnesium: Hailed as a sleep saviour for centuries, magnesium has been known to reduce our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) so that we feel more relaxed and sleep-ready. Fill up on nuts, leafy greens and fish and you’ll be snoozing in no time.

Baddies for sleep 

As much as we love food, it’s not all plain sailing when it comes to our munching habits. Being conscious of what we eat can massively help our sleep, and Dave has identified some food and drinks that actively try and keep us awake – so take note if your sleep is feeling a bit off:

  • Alcohol: We’re not saying steer clear of a glass of vino, but leaving a couple of hours between your last drink and when you hit the sack could save your sleep. Even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can reduce your REM sleep and make you wake up feeling groggy. And we all know where that leads (hello again, biscuits).
  • Sugar: We all love a bit of sugar – but satisfying our sweet tooth too close to bedtime can cause our brain to go on full alert and give us a hit of energy. So instead of bouncing around when you should be winding down, Dave recommends a handful of nuts or a banana tea to send you off into sleepy mode while keeping sugary endeavours for the daytime.
  • Spicy foods: A hit of spice might be the reason you’re struggling to drift off or sleeping restlessly. Indian food in particular is packed with various spices which can disturb our guts and lead to insomnia while our bodies wrestle to digest it. We’re not saying don’t go for spice, but eating earlier can give your body the kickstart it needs to digest before bed. Try our routine calculator if you want a helping hand with nailing your routine.

Munch time vs sleep time

According to Dave, leaving at least 3 hours after dinner before you bed down will give your body enough time to properly digest your food and absorb all the helpful, yummy nutrients you need. Plus, if you haven’t been able to resist a sugary snack it’ll give your sugar spike a chance to calm down, avoiding that 1am energy boost. (Reminder: working out the right time to eat couldn’t be easier with our routine calculator).

If you fancy trying some snooze-worthy recipes or discovering foods that’ll support your body for sleep, give our foods for sleep 101 a read which includes some delicious sleep-loving recipes from our friends at Gousto, the UK’s tastiest recipe boxes delivered. With better sleep comes better mornings, and at eve we’re all for that.

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