Links between food and sleep
How well do you sleep?
We posed this question to our keto community earlier this month and learned that two-thirds of active Senza users sleep just ok, or worse. This is a cause for concern.
Sleep is one of the most important pillars of human health. It affects our energy levels, mood, metabolic health, immune system strength, weight loss progress, brain function, and more. So why are so many of us unable to get a good night’s rest?
Many lifestyle factors play a role, but the food we eat certainly is a big one. For this edition of Fix the Food, we take a closer look at the key drivers of sleep quality and outline some of the steps we can take to improve it.
Common causes of poor sleep
Some of these root causes are well understood by scientists - others, not so much. Which ones ring true for you?
Exposure to artificial blue light in the evening from household lighting, TVs, computers, and phones
Overstimulation during the day, which elevates stress levels and keeps the mind spinning long past bedtime
Excessive consumption of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol which causes restlessness at night
Eating big meals close to bedtime
Out of balance hormones
Lack of essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium
Sleep aids that could be causing side effects and don’t actually promote the kind of sleep your body needs
Exposure to EMFs (electric and magnetic forces) from power lines, appliances, cell networks, wifi, and bluetooth technology
Room temperatures that are too warm, and lights shining or flashing in the room during sleep hours
Consequences of poor sleep
The body isn’t just resting during sleep. “It’s performing so many important functions that are essential to detoxification, brain health, recovery and hormonal balance,” say the authors of The Sleeping Brain: Harnessing the Power of the Glymphatic System through Lifestyle Choices.
Ignoring the body’s need for sleep leads to serious problems. For example: “The consequences of disruption to the circadian system and sleep include myriad metabolic ramifications, some of which may be compounded by adverse effects on dietary choices,” according to the authors of this study.
Moreover, circadian rhythm is now understood to be a regulator of gastrointestinal health and dysfunction. Care to go even deeper? Read how hormones that influence glucose regulation and appetite control are influenced by sleep.
Even once you’re motivated to solve the problem and have identified the main culprits, sleep routines can be especially difficult to change. People get used to operating on poor sleep and don’t know how much better they can function with a real night’s rest.
Sleep scientist Matthew Walker makes a compelling case for fixing your sleep routine in his 2017 book Why We Sleep. Or you can enroll in his masterclass, The Science of Better Sleep. At a minimum, take a few minutes to watch his 2019 TED Talk, Sleep is your superpower.
So what does quality a healthy sleep routine look like in practice?
During the day
As the saying goes, a good night’s sleep starts first thing in the morning. Keep your circadian rhythm aligned with your day and get outside for at least 15 minutes within 2 hours of waking up.
Finish any caffeine consumption by noon. (Note, caffeine stays in the system for 12+ hours.)
Incorporate some gentle movement during the day, like walking, stretching, or yoga.
Add a short practice of silence to your daily routine. It can be journaling, enjoying quiet time on walk, meditation, or a moment of gratitude.
During the evening
Turn down artificial lights in the evening hours and turn off lights that aren’t needed.
Use blue light dimmers and dark mode on screens when you need to use them in the evening hours.
Turn off all screens and finish eating at least 2 hours before sleep.
Wear blue-blocker glasses before bedtime.
Set a bedtime routine to wind down, like reading, journaling, or listening to relaxing music. Many smartphones have an option to set a sleep schedule, with reminders when it’s time to settle down for the night.
Use natural supplements with caution: magnesium, melatonin, and CBD supplements can help when you’re establishing a new sleep protocol, but always be aware of possible side effects and avoid taking them long-term.
During sleep hours
Keep the thermostat set at 60-67 degrees.
Make the room completely dark with blackout curtains and eye masks.
Keep pets out of your sleeping space.
Try a white noise machine to muffle noise from outside.
Try mouth taping to help with snoring and encourage nose breathing.
Tracking your sleep can be a powerful incentive for fixing it. Get an Oura ring if it’s in your budget, a smart watch with a sleep tracker, or you can manually log sleep hours in your Senza journal (when the Overview mode is enabled).
Changing what you eat can make a big difference in sleep quality; and getting better sleep improves digestion and nutrient absorption. If it isn’t already, sleep should be a top priority in your lifestyle health protocol.
Learn more about the role of sleep
Tips for potential sleep hygiene, from the Sleep Foundation