Eating to Support Sleep

By Tracy Gowler 6 years ago
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Sleep is a required human function that can so easily get off kilter. And it is one of the 4 factors that you will need to master to be healthy.

All my life I have run into people that say they can exist on 5 hours or less sleep per night.  I can’t imagine what that would be like.  And I used to envy those people because functioning on sleep that is that limited is never something I have been able to do.  Ever.

I suppose I thought I could when I was younger and was pulling all-nighters during my years in University.  I was working 30 hours minimum in the machine shop, carrying a 21 hour class load and commuting back and forth to class every day.  I didn’t sleep much my last couple of semesters.  Maybe that is why I could sleep anywhere.  I was so sleep deprived.  Haha.  I remember falling asleep sitting on some stairs waiting for my friend outside their apartment.  It just seemed like the best thing to do since sitting was just wasting time.

And then of course, all you moms out there absolutely know what being sleep deprived means if you have kids.  As wonderful as they are, they are huge contributors to sleep deprivation.

I no longer envy those 5 hours of sleep per night people. 

In the process of understanding contributing factors to health, it has become more and more clear how important sleep really is.  Our bodies have different functions that are performed while we are awake and while we sleep.  Sleep actually kicks off the nighttime orchestra in our body.  A couple of really important things that happen at night.

  1. Utilization of calcium to support the heart. Actually, a significant majority of the calcium that we consume is actually needed for heart health and not your bones.
  2. And the other thing is the detoxification of your liver. Your liver is such an important organ.  It creates the bile to help with food digestion, detoxification of cholesterol, hormones, and drugs, metabolization of fats, proteins and carbs, storage of vitamins, minerals, and glycogen, and it synthesizes plasma protein and helps with blood clotting.

Neither one of these things can happen unless you are sleeping and they take awhile to complete.  So, if you are burning the midnight oil every night, your body is not completing crucial functions to help your body operate at peak performance.

Tissues are also repaired while we sleep.  If you are exercising the way you should be, the repair of the breakdown that happens during exercise also happens during sleep.

Hormones are also secreted while we sleep.  Critical to proper body function as well.

And the list goes on.

As you can see, there is a lot going on that doesn’t happen while you are awake.

Hopefully I have sold you on the need for proper sleep.

And what is that you ask?  7-9 hours per night.  Optimum time for sleep?  10pm – 6am.

Ok, that is all well and good if you are sleeping.  What if you struggle to sleep?

Sleep is affected as I said above by so many things but ultimately melatonin is what the body uses to help us sleep.  If you are struggling with chronic illness or significant symptoms, and because 85% of Western population is suffering some degree of leaky gut, there are going to be sleep issues.  When the gut is suffering dysfunction, things that are made in the gut aren’t being make properly.  Guess where Melatonin is made?  Yep, gut.

What can you do from a food perspective to help with your sleep issue?

The goal is to reduce the dysfunction and inflammation in the gut and to increase the nutrients that are making it into your cells to support proper body function.

And yes, I am again going to be redundant in the information that I am sharing with you because it isn’t rocket science.  There isn’t a pill that you can make to make your health and life better.  It does take a commitment and some work to help make it better.  So here we go with me beating the same drum but it is really important and I hope at some point, the light bulb goes off and you finally get it and commit.  If you want to be healthy, there are key things you have to do and they all intertwine.

I highly recommend starting with a shake every morning to help this process.  What goes in that shake?   A good, clean, vegan protein powder like Garden of Life, leafy greens, fruit but not too much, avocado as a healthy fat, flax or chia seeds, any other vegetables that you might like and some liquid like water or a high quality almond milk or coconut milk.  The liquid allows for easy absorption of nutrients into the body and it is a great way to start off your day.

If you read my stuff, you know I’m a big proponent of Paleo.  The Paleo diet will begin to help with getting the proper nutrients into your body and lower inflammation to allow your gut to begin the healing process.  Healing the gut is critical to ensure the manufacture of melatonin resumes as it should.  There are many Paleo resources out there.  There are significant quantities of books and websites that you can access for Paleo education and Paleo recipes.  You can also access our Pinterest page here if you want to access some of our favorites.

Ok, I’m done with the reiteration of the things I repeat over and over again. 

Let’s talk about some other things you can do to help with your sleep. Keep in mind, everyone is different so these ideas you might have to work through these from a trial and error perspective.

  1. No food after 7pm. That way your body isn’t trying to digest while it is supposed to be doing the things it needs to while you are sleeping.
  2. If you have a fast metabolism, you might wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Eating a small healthy snack before bed could be helpful to allow your body to sleep through the night and not suffer symptoms from blood sugar that is bouncing around all over the place. If you do decide to snack, it should include protein and healthy fat to help slow the digestive process, so you don’t get hungry.
  3. Avoid caffeine later in the day.

That was so much more than I ever thought I had to say about sleep, especially when it comes to food support of sleep.  There is more to say, and we will continue this discussion next week since this whole month is dedicated to sleep.

Have a great rest of your week.


Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

  Autoimmune Disease, Health, Healthy Lifestyle, Sleep, Tracy's Corner
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 Tracy Gowler

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