Part 3 in a 3-Part Series on Dining
If I told you that a cup of coffee, a double bacon cheeseburger and a side of jalapeño poppers right before bed would ruin your sleep, you’d probably say, “No shit.” But I bet if I told you that bowl of jasmine rice you just ordered from your favorite Thai restaurant will make you feel all cozy and lead to a good night’s rest, you may very well say, “No shit?”
Yes, no shit. Food — what we put in our bodies — makes a difference in how we sleep. It can either enhance or hurt, encourage or discourage our precious slumber.
Before we go on, we want to make something clear — we know there are folks out there who don’t do the sleep and/or eat thing well. Many of us view both as necessary evils and finding enjoyment or solace in both in a positive way can be difficult. Having a warm, fuzzy relationship with either is beyond them and getting the right kind of each feels not only unattainable but inconsequential.
You’ve heard the quotes:
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“You can never be too rich or too thin.”
“Lunch is for wimps.”
“Sleep, that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life.”
“Sleep is for squares.”
Our bodies, however, need both to exist, survive and thrive. And the two really do go hand-in-hand. Therefore, eating well helps you sleep well and we’d like to give you permission to embrace both so you can live your best life.
You’ve probably already heard that lack of sleep contributes to weight gain. The why goes to the disruption of our circadian rhythms, that magical internal clock that regulates our biological ebb and flow — from sleep, metabolism, and more. And when that is thrown off, it needs to accommodate in some way. Just as starving yourself leads your body to store fat, so does eating poorly and eating in random ways affect how you sleep. Too much sugar, fat, sodium hinders the rhythms in your body to make your metabolism wonky, sleep thrown off and your overall health at risk. Yep, truth.
It’s funny. Those things your parental unit would tell you about “Eat your vegetables, don’t go out without eating a good breakfast, take a snack with you” actually matter to your overall well-being. And we at Sleep Club also know that when, what and how often you eat contribute to your cozy, comfy sleep.
Think about it — our bodies talk to us all the time. When we eat something that doesn’t agree with us, we’re up all night or uncomfortable all day, stomachs bubbling, mind swirling. And when we throw off our circadian rhythms, we gravitate toward more fatty, greasy, carbo-loaded, sugar-ladened foods. This ignoring of what’s good for us to eat sends us into pure satisfaction rather than true satiation of what our body needs. Funny, isn’t it? Our anatomy really does right by us and we so often ignore what it’s telling us.
Listening to the way we need to be fed is a process. You need to take a moment and truly look at what makes you feel good. Food is more than just sustenance. It’s a journey, an experience, a glorious joy. For example, you may hate the taste of fish, but your body actually needs what it provides, so your body steers you to find other ways to get it the nutrients and benefits it offers. Walnuts, flaxseeds, soybeans may be your thing instead. While they can’t completely replace the Omega-3 that you get from fish, you’ll get the alpha linolenic acid (ALA) or the fat that Omega-3 has.
Perhaps you’re a sugar junky. Okay. Refined sugar kicks your ass for sleep and can not only be your nemesis in that diabetic-potential way, but just in your day-to-day life. One of my favorite cartoons is FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS. It was this kickass show about how imaginary friends are partnered with their perfect person. In one episode, it’s made clear that the lead, Mac, cannot have refined sugar because he blazes high then crashes and burns bigtime. And if you’ve ever had a sugar high with a bigtime crash, you understand. That, in itself, makes your sleep topsy-turvy — it’s all surface awesome until you realize your body’s done and needs to sleep. But not a good one. It’s that hardcore, gotta get a nap immediately that leaves you not rested or satisfied, but sometimes even more tired.
Sweetness comes in ways beyond this refined, white sugar granules form. If you need a little bit of yum in that form, your body actually is probably in love with peaches, apples, carrots — basically, natural ways to fulfill that craving with that once-in-awhile cheat of a brownie or plate of pasta (pure sugar, folks) here and there. Yes, cheats here and there are normal as well. Binging, however, on anything kicks your butt bigtime and you need to watch out for it.
Yeah, I know. Eating well so you can sleep well as being something that matters sort of makes you have to be in control of your life in a way that is way too immersive for many. However, sit back, relax, and listen to what your body is telling you about the food it needs. It usually correlates to the foods you really, REALLY want. And eating too close to bedtime isn’t about weight management or, well, not JUST about that. It’s also because it keeps you from a healthy slumber and it hinders that clock in your body that keeps you in synch and happy. Believe it.
As you know, we’re big believers in dining — truly taking the time to enjoy your food, eat well and embrace the glories of the meals you indulge in even if you’re chowing solo (we love treating ourselves to a brilliant eating experience on our own but we’ll get to that later). Think of it, when you slow your dining roll, really sit with your food and embrace, enjoy and taste it, it also relaxes you. We don’t get a chance too often to have a meal as we deserve — multiple small courses eaten over long periods of time. But… our body, our sleep, our lives depend on it. Even if it’s nuts, fruit, brown rice and chicken, stretch it out, relax into it, love yourselves through what you put into your body. Your mind and body will thank you. Your slumber will thank you.
And all will be right in your waking world.