Is your dinner keeping you up at night?
Posted by Nicola Elliott
As well as stress, blue light and other family members keeping you awake (restless children, nocturnal teenagers, snoring husbands etc), did you know what and when you eat can impact your shut eye as well?
To find out what we need to be doing (and not doing) we grilled two pro’s in the know – Lucy Hill, holistic nutritionist and founder of Chaya Yoga Retreats and Rob Hobson, Detox Kitchen Nutritionist on how we can ensure we’re not disrupting our bedtime routine with our diet.
Pair your food properly
Life is all about balance and your evening meal should be too. “An amino acid called tryptophan is used in the brain to synthesise melatonin, which is a hormone that controls the sleep/wake cycle,” explains Rob. “Tryptophan can be found in foods such as turkey, milk and bananas and to assist in its uptake you should partner these foods with a source of carbohydrate such as oats, bread or pasta. That’s why a carbohydrate rich evening meal may help make you feel sleepy.”
Save the spice
A lot of go-to ingredients you add to form the base of sauces – things like onion, garlic and chilli are super stimulating which isn’t good when you want your insides to be on wind down. Rob also flags that spicy, rich foods are buggers for heartburn and stomach upsets too (you have been warned). Again, not everyone will fall victim to a Vindaloo but it’s worth bearing in mind if you wondered why falling asleep after curry night was trickier than normal.
Think about your drink
Some people have caffeine sensitivity and some people don’t but it generally takes around four to six hours for caffeine to be processed by the body so if you have even the slightest inkling it affects you and could give you the jitters, have your last latte around 4pm. After that, switch to herbal teas or try a warm milky drink like a turmeric latte (we heart Wunder Workshop). “Warm milk is very soothing and also nourishing. Adding cinnamon will help balance out your blood sugar levels or add half a teaspoon of ground cardamom – a relaxing spice it’s also supportive of digestion so a good shout before bed,” says Lucy. And avoid alcohol. While it does help to make you feel drowsy, Rob flags that it’s dehydrating and can upset your sleep cycle. If the thought of no wine with dinner makes you glum, go for one glass around 7.30pm as your body should have had time to process it by bed.
Time your meals
Going to bed on a full stomach isn’t advisable as it means your blood sugar levels will creep up, giving you an energy rush and possibly adding hours of extra awake time you didn’t want. It will also trigger the release of cortisol, which could lead to wake-ups in the night. Plus, you’re not giving your body chance to rest and digest. “If the stomach is full, then more energy will be focused on digestion, rather than it’s essential maintenance tasks,” warns Lucy. This can be anything from skin regeneration to organ detoxifying.
The solution is to work out your sweet spot when it comes to dinnertime. If you have children you could consider eating with them although it might leave you hungry later on and you could be more likely to reach for ‘convenience’ foods (eek!). Saying that, not all healthier sounding snacks work before bed either. For example, dark chocolate contains high levels of caffeine so it might not be the best option if you struggle to sleep. Likewise, salads or crudités can cause tummy troubles as not everyone can digest raw food easily so if you do have pre-midnight munchies, try something like oat cakes and peanut butter instead that won’t delay your journey to dreamland.