It is widely acknowledged that good nutrition and maintaining an active lifestyle are major contributing factors for a healthy body. What is often overlooked however, is the importance of sleep in getting your body and mind performing at its best.
So why is getting enough sleep so important?
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) “sleep is essential for a persons health & wellbeing” . There are numerous studies that show the impact of inadequate sleep on:
- The regulation of mood
- Your ability to learn and your memory
- Concentration & focus
- Sustaining energy levels throughout the day; and
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
The Impact of Your Nutrition Choices On Sleep
Can’t increase the quantity of sleep you’re getting? Make sure the sleep you are getting then is high quality so you maximize the benefits of your sleep. Making sure your body has all the right ingredients available for cellular rejuvenation during the night time hours to help boost sleep quality and energy levels the next day. Make sure you are eating:
- Healthy Fats – think avocado, olive oil, coconut oil & organic & pastured animal products;
- Fibrous veggies & other high antioxidant fruits or herbal teas – help your body detoxify over night as you sleep and help with hormone production; and
- High quality protein – for immune function & muscle repair. However finish eating your protein at least 4 hours before you go to bed as protein is low to digest.
Also reduce sugars, unhealthy fats and refined grains as these add extra load to your liver which takes energy away from cell recovery. Caffeine can also have an affect on sleep quality and so a number of people find they actually do a lot better and have a lot more energy without caffeine. Experiment, see what works for you.
The Impact of Sleep on Nutrition
Ever noticed that you crave sugar or carbohydrates when tired? Lack of sleep can cause hormone havoc, cravings and have a major influence on your nutritional decisions.
Staying up late increases the instances of late-night junk food snack or soda and some studies have shown that it is harder to avoid eating unhealthy foods when sleep is inadequate. This can lead to unnecessary weight gain and lower energy levels.
One of society’s worst health problems today is obesity. Although diet, genetics, environment and lifestyle are largely to blame, the alteration of sleeping pattern is now emerging as having a more evident link with weight gain.
In fact, researches on sleep patterns have shown that there is a consistent link between shorter sleep duration and larger body mass. When a person is sleep deprived, hormonal imbalance occurs between leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is responsible for signaling the brain that we are full, and ghrelin communicates to the brain that we are hungry. Studies have shown people who sleep less than eight-hours have lower levels of leptin and elevated levels of ghrelin. Not what we want if weight loss is a goal.
Food Choice & Sleep
A study done by the University of Pennsylvania showed that the habitual length of a person’s sleeping habit did in fact have a link to how much and what types of food they were eating. Sleepers were categorized into the following: very short sleepers (less than 5 hours a night), short sleepers (5-6 hours), average sleepers (7-8 hours) and long sleepers (9 hours or more).
Researchers found that the caloric intake was vastly different between these sleeper groups. The short sleepers were found to consume the most calories, followed by the average sleepers and then the very short sleepers. The long sleepers, on the other hand, consume the least amount of calories. They also found that among the groups, the average sleepers consumed the most varied diet. Those that were considered short and long sleepers, meanwhile, consumed less varied diets.
We all know now that personal diet choices and individual lifestyle activities are all major factors in a person’s health and fitness. Sleep however is one of the most undervalued health hacks you can master and so prioritizing a little extra sleep can for some people be transformational.
Over to you. Has a lack of sleep led to more cravings for unhealthy foods? We would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.
Karen Wojciechowski, founder of Real Energy Food is an integrative nutrition health coach who is passionate about helping people boost energy levels, lose weight, clear up their skin & improve their health through finding the right foods that work for their unique body.