Nutrition

Eat for sleep

“Sleep is where memory is consolidated, it’s where we get that deep, restorative physical recovery in those period, which allows us to adapt from training so it’s really important for that reason"

Sleep is super important for both our mental and physical wellbeing. And just like you can fuel your fitness with nutrition, you can eat to sleep easy too. We talked to Aquanation and Aquahub dietitian Byron Manning on his tips for snacking for sleep.

Foods that help you sleep

It can be easy to push sleep to the side and prioritising work, family or even that TV show you’ve been bingeing. In reality though, we should all be prioritising sleep much more than we actually do - especially if we have fitness goals.

“Sleep is where memory is consolidated, it’s where we get that deep, restorative physical recovery in those period, which allows us to adapt from training so it’s really important for that reason,” says Manning.

That’s where fuelling your fitness comes into all aspects of your overall health because you’re not just fuelling your workouts, you’re giving your body what it needs to recover with what you eat too.

As it turns out, there’s a certain nutrient found in particular grub that can help you snooze for success.

“Tryptophan is a nutrient that can help with the onset or the quality of sleep found in turkey, chicken, beef, pork, eggs, milk or even edamame,” advises the dietitian. Mmmmm, what meat eater hasn’t felt snoozy after a roast turkey?

Manning adds that for Tryptophan to get across the blood/brain barrier it needs a little help from old mate insulin.

“To increase it’s really beneficial to have high GI snack to eat with the tryptophan,” the dietitian recommends.

His go-to snack is every kid’s (big and small kids) favourite, Milo. “With a Milo you’ve got your milk that will have some tryptophan and if you’ve got a nice amount of milo in that milk (i.e. more milk than milo) the high GI in milo promotes the insulin levels to help that tryptophan make its way to your brain,” Manning recommends.

Foods to avoid

Much like there are foods that are super for sleep, there are certainly things to avoid if you want some serious zzzz’s. Manning’s number one is likely a tough one to restrict for most of us.

“Caffeine can have a half-life of up to about six hours and people think okay after six hours your all good,” says Manning. He explains further warning that the half-life means that for example, “if you have an energy drink that will have about 100mg of caffeine in it and in six hours time there’ll be 50mg in your blood and in another six hours there’ll be 25mg.”

Yikes!

Yep, your favourite brew may not be the best idea because it can interrupt sleep tremendously. And when the dietitian explains the science behind it, it’s pretty hard to ignore his advice.

“With caffeine, one of the things that accumulates throughout the day is adenosine in the brain, so there are Y shaped receptors sitting on your brain and we have adenosine that attaches to those throughout the day, as more and more of those attach throughout the day we get sleepier,” explains the dietitian.

Manning adds that after accumulating these receptors throughout the day, when we sleep we reset those. But coffee really cuts our lunch when it comes to snoozing. “The thing with caffeine apart from releasing adrenaline and other hormones that keep us awake is that it is actually a competitive inhibitor, so it fits into that Y like structure and it blocks that adenosine from getting in and making us sleep.”

If you do love your coffee (our hands are up, what about yours?) Manning suggests trying not to have coffee after 3pm.

For those who enjoy a beverage of the alcoholic variety, this is another one to avoid.


“Alcohol, it might increase sleep latency, so you might feel like you’re getting to sleep quicker after you’ve had a drink, but the science shows you’re not going to sleep as deeply,” the dietitian explains.

He’s not wrong, studies as far back as 1939 show that alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime lowers the body temperature during the first part of sleep, but increases body temperature in stage two meaning you’re likely to wake up in the very early hours of the morning.

So now that you’re armed with all that knowledge, happy snoozing friends!