Eating Well for Energy & Sleep
The foods that we eat can have a massive impact on our energy levels and also how well we sleep. If you don’t feel refreshed when you first wake up, or if you find that you have peaks and dips in your energy levels throughout the day, you might be surprised that making a few changes to what you eat will make all the difference. Read on for 5 quick nutrition tips that will help you balance out your energy levels and improve the quality of your sleep.
1. Choose wholefoods over processed foods: Your blood sugar levels affect how energised you feel throughout the day and so you should aim to keep these steady by avoiding sugar spikes and crashes. It’s not just obviously sugary foods like fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolate, but also foods that are high in simple carbohydrates, like white bread, potatoes, or pasta, that cause your blood sugar levels to quickly rise. Eating mostly vegetables, protein, heathy fats and wholegrain foods will help to keep your blood sugar levels, and therefore your energy levels, much more even throughout the day.
2. Combine fruit with other wholefoods: Fruit is of course good for you; it is a good source of fibre and nutrients like vitamins, and it also contains natural sugars. While the natural sugar in a piece of fruit does not have the negative health risks of refined sugar, if you eat lots of fruit alone, without any protein or healthy fats to reduce the speed the sugar reaches the blood, you may still get an energy spike and crash. If you like to snack on an apple, you could have it with a spoonful of nut butter!
3. Swap sugary snacks for water and exercise: If you feel tired during the day and are tempted to reach for a chocolate bar or other sugary snack to give you a boost, then remember that a short while later you will feel even more tired. A better option is a large glass of water and something to get the blood pumping around the body. So, a fast walk or jog (or some burpees if you have space and inclination!) will work wonders.
4. Give your food time to digest before you head to bed: Eating a large meal can make it harder to get to sleep, as the body is busy digesting food and isn’t yet ready to switch off and relax. If you are planning a large evening meal, try to leave a gap of at least 2 hours between eating and bedtime.
5. Learn which foods can help you fall asleep: Some foods release chemicals that actually help the body to get drowsy. If you have trouble drifting off to sleep, you could include some of these as part of your evening meal (all in moderation of course). These foods include figs, sweet potatoes, pistachios, prunes, nut butter, oats, almonds, cherries, turkey, dark chocolate, bananas, and hummus. Many of these are a good source of melatonin that helps regulate your sleep cycle, or other nutrients that naturally reduce muscle and nerve functions, while also steadying your heart rhythm.
6. Avoid foods that could keep you awake: Just as some foods will make you drowsy, other foods can keep you awake. In addition to the obvious culprits like tea, coffee or energy drinks, when its getting close to bedtime, make sure you steer clear of heavy fried foods, and anything that is high in fat, salt and sugar – there are too many to list!
Developing healthier habits around food (as well as other areas of your life) is one of the things we cover in the 12-week Healthy, Whole and Free online course, that supports people to overcome obstacles, break down barriers and find freedom for body, mind and soul. The next course starts in May – and registration is now open! We are only taking 25 participants so don’t delay!