A little nighttime reading
Today's post is from Megan Morris, co-founder of Prescribe Nutrition, which offers nutritional programs online that support you in your journey to better health. It's like having both a nutritionist and inspiring peer community in your corner to help you achieve your goals. In her guest post, Megan gives advice for better sleep from a nutritionist's perspective.
Prescribe Nutrition’s guide to better sleep through diet and gut health
By Megan Morris
Does anyone catch enough zzz’s these days? It’s one of the most common struggles we hear, affecting nearly everyone. The good news: there are a ton of things you can try before turning to artificial sleep aids. It may be no surprise to know that some folks running a nutrition company are passionate about connecting the dots between proper nutrition and the way we all feel. At Prescribe Nutrition we are truly passionate about understanding how the food we eat (or don’t eat) can have such a powerful impact on the quality of our sleep.
One of the most important things you can know? Healthy serotonin levels play a massive role in good sleep cycles. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, although it's also considered a hormone. It’s produced in your gut and in your brain - but guess what? 80-95% of it comes from the gut, so a healthy gut will support healthy serotonin levels, and all of these tips below directly support the gut. Who would have thought digestion plays such a huge role in sleep?
FIRST UP? YOU GUESSED IT, YOUR DIET.
- Throughout the day, incorporate healthy fats [coconut oil, olive oil, eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds, fish] to help provide your body with the necessary building blocks for sleep hormones. This can improve serotonin levels [more on serotonin below!]
- High quality proteins also play a big role. Protein helps with melatonin production and can prevent blood sugar drops that might wake you up in the middle of the night. Additionally, incorporating protein at breakfast sets the stage for stable blood sugar throughout the day - which in turn will help you sleep!
- Eat foods high in tryptophan! The turkey legend is not an old wives tale. Shrimp, halibut, tuna, chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb are all high in this amino acid which is the precursor to serotonin, so foods high in tryptophan will produce serotonin - the helpful sleep antioxidant.
- Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants are also important for hormone production, and the fiber helps remove toxins that can negatively impact sleep. We need them now more than ever since our soil is actually depleted of minerals, including magnesium, so we’re all at risk of being low. Go for the rainbow here - you’ll want berries, dark leafy greens, root veggies...it’s a welcome party for all veggies and fruit.
- Some fresh herbs can have a calming effect on the body. Sage and basil are known to reduce tension and improve sleep. Incorporate these herbs into dinner for a relaxing evening, you could even include them in an essential oil / spray.
- We always advocate to stay away from sugars, but especially at night, cut them out! They can cause a sugar spike and then a crash, which can make it hard to fall asleep initially [spike] or could cause you to wake you up in the middle of the night [crash].
- Adding fuel to the fire: alcohol, caffeine, stress, salt and sugar all lower your levels of magnesium. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 80% men and 70% of women are magnesium deficient - an eye opener!
NEED SOME EXTRA SUPPORT?
- Cod Liver and fish oil are high in fat soluble vitamins as well as healthy omega-3 fatty acids which helps with hormone production and sleep!
- Magnesium, as you read in this Slumbr post, also plays a big role in sleep quality. Magnesium helps improve sleep, PMS, irritability, muscle cramps, spasms, and twitches, anxiety, constipation,migraines...you get the picture.
- Here’s a list of the top magnesium heavy hitters:
- Swiss chard
- Pumpkin seeds
- Plain, unsweetened yogurt or Kefir
- Black Beans
- Additionally you can add in a magnesium supplement before bed to improve sleep [ our favorite is Natural CALM powder particularly for good rest, and relaxation of muscles]. The Prescribe Nutrition team swears by this stuff!
- Melatonin is a hormone that can assist with sleep cycles. We recommend working with a health practitioner to discuss dosing [start small!] and to avoid long term use.
LIFESTYLE CHANGES WHICH CAN ALSO MAKE A HUGE IMPACT.
- Get into a routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Your body will adjust to this and will fall into balance instead of a constantly changing schedule.
- Be out in the natural sunlight as much as possible in the day, and avoid artificial light as much as possible once the sun goes down. Again, this is getting your body into a routine...the less we confuse your body and your hormones the better. Even a few 5 minute walks in the day can help.
- Ditch caffeine, specifically in the afternoon. Yep. Sorry but drinking caffeine later in the day can have a huge impact on your sleep.
- Drink water earlier in the day - don’t try to chug a lot later to reach the recommended amount. Waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom is all too familiar.
- Relax and settle in. Create some healthy habits around bedtime: an epsom salt and essential oil bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book, meditate, pray, yoga, stretch, journal. Looking at your phone or watching too much TV right before bed can cause major sleep problems.
- Black out your bedroom. Like we said before, limit artificial light as much as possible after the sun goes down...especially in the bedroom. Remove electronics, blackout windows, cover any lights that are visible.
- Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only. This strengthens the internal association between bed and sleep.
To learn more about Prescribe Nutrition and their online nutritional support programs, click here.
Megan is a functional nutritionist, co-founder of Prescribe Nutrition and founder of The Root of Health, an online digestive health resource. She got into nutrition because of her own health challenges (and minor obsession) around digestive health. Megan graduated from Bauman College with a Nutrition Consultant certification in clinical nutrition. Megan's ultimate goal is to help people listen to what their bodies are telling them and guide them on the most streamlined approach for sustainable health. Simultaneously she wants people to be able to live their lives to the fullest while on their health journey. For more information visit prescribe-nutrition.com and follow them at facebook.com/