When it comes to things you can do to get a better night's sleep, one thing you might not have realised is how much what you eat and when you eat can play a vital role.
Nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume has revealed why mindless snacking during the day is affecting your sleep and shared her tips with Yahoo Lifestyle on how to stop, and better manage your eating for a sound slumber.
While more studies are necessary to determine the real effect of food intake on sleep, research to date does provide some important clues.
"We know that the relationship between sleep and diet is a two-way street. Sleep deprivation can affect appetite-regulating hormones, which may result in overeating and consuming unhealthy foods," Kathleen tells us.
With more than half of Aussie adults suffering symptoms of insomnia, here Kathleen shares with us the simple diet tricks you can implement to improve your sleeping patterns.
Be consistent and choose the right snacks
Apart from getting ample shut-eye, the best way to promote a healthy circadian rhythm is to be consistent with sleep times, as well as your meal and snacks – at times that are relatively distributed throughout the day.
"One of the best ways to prevent mindless in-between meal munchies is by having higher quality, nutrient dense, nourishing snacks available on-hand whenever you may need them, including in the car or at work," Kathleen tells us.
Aim for snack options that are a source of fibre or protein – a key nutrient to help keep hunger at bay.
Don’t forget breakfast
According to Dr Satchin Panda, leading expert in the field of circadian rhythm research and author of 'The Circadian Code', aligning your mealtime with your circadian rhythm (aka your body clock) is also better for your health.
In other words, consuming the bulk of your food during the daylight hours.
Ensuring that this includes a nutritious breakfast is an important habit to help kick start your day, so that you avoid ordering an over-sized muffin with your latte or eat most of your calories late at night, Kathleen explains.
"A nutritious breakfast provides quality carbohydrates to maintain your energy, includes protein to help appetite control and is high in dietary fibre to help support good digestion," she says.
"I usually choose porridge made from whole grain rolled oats and fruit or a slice of whole grain toast with avocado and scrambled eggs. And, if you don’t have time for a proper sit-down breakfast, I recommend high-fibre options like Uncle Tobys Breakfast Bakes as they contain the same amount of whole grain oats as a bowl of porridge (based on a 34g Original Quick Sachet)."
Keep up with the whole grains
Carb-cutting diets can actually be denying you of essential sleep chemicals. So instead of wiping them out altogether, just choose your carbs wisely.
Not only does a source of carbohydrate provide brain fuel for cognitive function, but it also influences serotonin - a key hormone that helps promote a healthy sleep. Opt for high-fibre whole grains, such as oat-based muesli bars or crackers made with brown rice or quinoa. Steer clear of refined carbs (e.g. crisps) to avoid blood sugar highs and lows, and potential food cravings.
Don’t eat late at night
Overeating, particularly when most of the calories are consumed closer to bedtime, may also negatively disrupt sleep quality.
The Sleep Health Foundation recommends eating your last meal or snack at least 2 hours before bedtime.
However, some people find that having a small snack at bedtime helps them to sleep better. The key is choosing nourishing options that won’t mess with your slumber.
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