Sleep's Role In Diet: The missed opportunity

 Over 30 days in January, I changed my food and my sleep improved. But, it turns out, that improvement in my sleep allowed me to continue to see the results from changing my food. Sleep matters. And just a reminder, the picture on the left was not an accurate depiction of my starting state. It was from the nutrition challenge the year before. The middle picture was closer to the start and represents a time that I first learned I was battling depression and I had really turned to food as therapy. I had also quit prioritizing my sleep. 

Over 30 days in January, I changed my food and my sleep improved. But, it turns out, that improvement in my sleep allowed me to continue to see the results from changing my food. Sleep matters. And just a reminder, the picture on the left was not an accurate depiction of my starting state. It was from the nutrition challenge the year before. The middle picture was closer to the start and represents a time that I first learned I was battling depression and I had really turned to food as therapy. I had also quit prioritizing my sleep. 

 

When asked how many people would consider their sleep quality “good” (and we specify that “good” does not mean “great” necessarily), very few hands go up. When we ask how many people sleep through the night even fewer raise their hands. When asked how many people feel their alarm goes off at an appropriate time and is not waking them up before they are ready, we are lucky to have one hand go up. But why?

 

There are so many factors that impact our sleep quality, but a great place to start is nutrition. When we consume poor food choices our bodies are unable to operate consistently. Think about the sugar rush we used to love when we were kids. Suck down 10 pixie sticks and let’s see how crazy things get! Throw down a can of Surge (remember that stuff?) and the next hour or so is sure to be entertaining (at least for us. Certainly not for our teacher in our next class). 

 

When we eat trash food we get trash results and that includes sleep. My poor sleep is more convicting to me than my gaining weight when I find myself in a season of poor food choices. I can rationalize being heavier than normal, but I HATE when my sleep is impacted by anything other than awesomeness. 

 

It is no wonder that sleep is one of the first things to improve when our athletes begin to make better choices when it comes to their food. Before the pants fit better or the abs shine through, 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep are often enjoyed. 

 

And, sleep is like the steroid of self improvement. It’s obvious that we think better when we are well rested. We are more creative and we are more enjoyable which allows us to foster and create better relationships. But what you may not know is sleep will either help or hinder your progress when it comes to your body composition. And since our appearance is often a better motivator than our mental or spiritual well being, it makes sense to remember this. 

 

So we have a bit of a chicken or the egg situation here. Which came first? Your inability to sleep through the night or your weight gain slash food cravings? Well, in the end it really doesn't matter. What we must focus on now is finding the remedy. So here's the plan:

1) Quit being a dumbass at night. One more episode on Netflix is not worth you gaining 5 more pounds of body fat. Same for the social media channels. Nobody that is worth watching on those channels is laying in bed like you scrolling through their news feed for hours on end. Shut it down. PLUG YOUR PHONE IN AWAY FROM YOUR BED. Two things happen here: You are not distracted by your phone because standing over by your dresser is not conducive to being lost in social media for hours AND when your alarm goes off in the morning, you'll actually have to get up. 

2) Quit eating late at night. Different studies show different results. Here are things I have learned watching y'all and dealing with my own food struggle. When I eat late, high carb/sugar foods will almost always prevent me from sleeping well. Often a pizza and a coke will guarantee I am staring at the ceiling in my bedroom from midnight to 2am even if I slept from 10pm to midnight. If I have to eat late, say I got off of work at 8pm like I normally do and I am getting in bed at 9:30, then I limit my meal to vegetables (low sugar, duh), fats and proteins. So I will have a spinach salad with chicken shredded across the top. The dressing is a touch of balsamic vinegar and a pour of olive oil. Nothing in that will keep me up. 

Ideally I think you eat your last meal 90 minutes before you are laying down. I also think you take a walk after you eat. I believe it's a Chinese proverb that says something along the lines of "He who walks 100 steps after he heats lives 100 years."

3) Cave it up. Cut the AC down to 70 or below. Black out the windows. And move or cover any of those pesky LED lights that blink and shine off of your electronics. 

4) Consider ambient noise. I sleep with a white noise machine every night. Nikolle discovered it and Tim Ferriss has talked about it quite a bit. The volume is adjustable and now I actually also use it to help me ease my anxiety during the day at home. Another thing to consider is a sleep music app on your phone. I use iSleep Easy from the App Store on my iPhone. It offers both nature sounds like light rain, calm ocean shore, or gentle forest brook as well as soothing music. And the best part is you can play the music with the nature sounds and adjust the volume of each. 

There are a few reasons for this and I would encourage you to explore them. But for me the white noise machine was necessary because I have rather loud neighbors. Although I am not a light sleeper, I absolutely struggle to fall asleep with unexpected noises like music or loud talking. So the noise maker helps to drown that out and it really does work.

 

Explore On Your Own:

Relax Like a Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep

TIM FERRISS’S FIVE RULES FOR BETTER, FASTER SLEEP

The Importance of a Good Night Sleep by Robb Wolf

 

Although we have hundreds of cases of practical application to back all of this up, it's always night to bring in Science. Understanding why something works the way that it does is tremendously better than guessing we understand because it just happens to turn out that way. 

Science Daily wrote a post about a study by the University of Chicago. They tested 10 individuals and they sent them through two 14 day challenges in a controlled environment. One 14 day period had them in bed for 8.5 hours a night (during which they averaged 7.5 hours of sleep) and the other 14 day period had them in bed and sleeping for just 5.5 hours a night. Here are some of the highlights. And the actual study is linked below. 

-Dieters lost more weight in the 14 day period they slept 7.5 hours versus the 14 day period they slept just 5.5 hours. 

-Getting adequate sleep also helped control the dieters' hunger

-"For the first time, we have evidence that the amount of sleep makes a big difference on the results of dietary interventions. One should not ignore the way they sleep when going on a diet. Obtaining adequate sleep may enhance the beneficial effects of a diet. Not getting enough sleep could defeat the desired effects." -Penev

Here’s the actual study if you are interested in the more sciencey side of things.

 

Change your nutrition and you will improve your sleep. Improve your sleep and you will not only be helping yourself maintain your new nutritional choices by limiting cravings, but you will also be making greater progress towards achieving your body composition goals. And there’s also the whole part about being a more enjoyable and productive human being that happens to be another side effect of improved sleep. But thats barely worth mentioning, right?

 

So basically, change your food and you’ll improve your sleep. Improve your sleep and you’ll look better naked and you’ll be a pretty decent human being. Not a bad deal, right?

 

 

If your nutrition seems to be your downfall, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help you find the right path and we absolutely have taking on this journey ourselves. Learn from our experiences and the experiences of the 100s of people that came before you. I truly believe that you will change your entire life when you change your nutrition. Contact us today!