Kalinik advocates a stress-relieving practice before you even tackle your diet, as the burden of chronic stress has a profound effect on your adrenal glands. “When your adrenal glands are working overtime, health problems from poor sleep to long term gut issues can begin.” While you cannot always control the stress you’re exposed to, Kalinik says you can control your response to it.
“Take the hour before bed to remove stress – and that includes anxiety around getting to sleep. That might mean writing down any concerns and ‘brain dumping’ from the day, so this stress isn’t swirling around your mind. Take a warm bath, read a book or do some meditation or deep breathing exercises.”
In the current working-from-home climate, our continuous use of devices is another cause of underlying stress that affects sleep. “Blue-light exposure in the evening is particularly disruptive. Frankly, the bedroom should only be used for two things and neither of them is internet shopping or checking social media.”
Kalinik advises against using our mobiles as alarm clocks and instead suggests getting an old-fashioned clock, switching off your phone and putting it in another room when you go to bed.
Now you’ve set yourself a relaxing bedtime routine, follow Eve’s 5 easy ways to eat your way to better sleep…
Avoid caffeine after 12pm
Restrict your intake of caffeine (from tea, coffee and energy drinks) to no later than midday, and stick to no more than two to three cups per day on average. If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine then reduce further. “Caffeine can stay in your system for 10-12 hours so that 3pm latte could be why you’re lying awake at 1am.”
Eat foods that produce GABA
Natural sources of GABA (a ‘calming’ neurotransmitter) can help to promote better sleep, such as green, black and oolong tea, milk kefir, ‘live’ yogurt and tempeh. Foods that can boost our own production include lentils, walnuts, oats, almonds, fish, berries, spinach, broccoli, potatoes and cocoa. And ensure that your meals include a diversity of fibre and fermented foods to support the health of your gut microbiota.
Avoid quick energy fixes
Another common sleep saboteur is consuming lots of high-energy food and drinks, such as sugary snacks, junk food and soft drinks. It’s easy to get into a negative feedback loop with these kinds of food and the associated cravings. When we feel tired it makes sense to seek an immediate ‘fix’. However, these foods and drinks can mask fatigue, so we get less rest and end up more sleep deprived. We then compensate by eating more of these foods to get energy, further disrupting sleep.
Eat 3 meals a day
Avoid skipping meals as that may have you reaching for a sugary snack. Include plenty of complex carbohydrates in these meals, such as whole grains, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, wild rice or sourdough, along with some kind of protein to keep you better satiated. If you need a snack in the afternoon, plan it so you don’t go for whatever is hanging around the kitchen. Try half an avocado sprinkled with seeds or an oatcake with some cheese.
Alcohol is another sleep disruptor. It is a diuretic so it makes us want to pee more, which causes us to wake in the night. It also disrupts the hormones that govern the sleep–wake cycle by producing a chemical called adenosine. This hormone makes us feel sleepy, so we go to sleep, but then wake before we’re fully rested. While a glass of wine with dinner for those who enjoy it is generally fine, too much isn’t and using wine or beer to help us get to sleep is not a good idea. Instead, try sipping a cup of chamomile tea or my Sweet Dreams Milk instead.