Sleep is that one thing we all take for granted with how good it is before you have children.
If you are a busy parent you are probably wishing there was a few more hours in a day so when you slink into the couch at night you didn’t feel so exhausted. New mum energy is both wonderful but also detrimental to our long term sleep patterns long after the kids are teenagers.
That energy is great for boosting you out of bed in the middle of the night to tend to your hungry baby, frightened toddler or sick child but it also can cause you to create a habit of being used to going to sleep later in the evening by the time you get in some time for your own activities.
Food doesn’t directly help you sleep better but has positive benefits on your mood, can impact your energy and can get you through a day when you might not get more than 6 hours quality sleep per night.
The problem with poor sleep is that it often results in craving instant energy foods that next day which will then leave you feeling guilty five minutes, five hours or five days after you ate them.
The best approach to avoiding the empty energy foods the day after sleep is to balance your meals the day before you get a rough sleep so that your body has the nutrients on board to keep your immune system strong.
Sleep helps balance your cortisol, a hormone that keeps your fight or flight survival mechanism in balance.
It also helps to create your white blood cells that are essential for recovering from sickness faster.
So instead of telling you what you already know is impacting your sleep from your lifestyle here are six strategies to help you add value to your meals each day so that you can survive with more energy when the lack of sleep period hits:
1. Balance your meals with the science of satisfaction
Feeling satisfied is the key to wellness. When your body is satisfied with carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, water content, vitamins and minerals it has the key elements to keep you well. When your body performs optimally through having a the balance at all your meals your energy is sustained. This is incredibly helpful during periods of poor sleep.
2. Include foods that are high in water content at every meal time
You have heard me say it many times – your body is made up of two thirds water. Your lifestyle as well as your sleep can hugely impact the fluid balance of your body. Drinking water needs to complement your balanced meals so that your satisfaction is optimised. If you are satisfied you have a greater chance of not getting sick when you have had poor sleep.
When you have had poor sleep the night before choose a breakfast that is high in water content such as porridge in colder climates and bircher or a smoothie in the warmer climates.
Carbohydrates that are high in water content include grains like rice, quinoa and oats that absorb water in the cooking process as well as root vegetables like kumara, pumpkin and potatoes.
3. Be mindful of the food and drink that takes water away from you
Caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic affect and while they can give you an energy boost or help you to relax in the short term, they end up dehydrating you long term when used excessively for energy.
Caffeine and alcohol also can compromise your vitamins and minerals being absorbed from your healthy meals so when you do have a poor nights sleep aim to keep caffeine and alcohol away from food.
4. Add hard produce to every meal to keep you more satisfied
Poor sleep increases your appetite hormone leptin the day after poor sleep. You can help to reduce your increased appetite by adding hard produce to your every meal.
Hard produce are fruits and vegetables like apples, kiwifruit, celery, beans, broccoli and cabbage to name just a few. A full list of the hard produce used in the science of satisfaction is included in the book ‘Wet Your Appetite’ – The Secret to Eating Guilt Free.
5. Check your intake of foods naturally high in iron
You will need a blood test to validate that you are low in iron. There are a few factors that can contribute to your iron levels being in balance. It is not just determined on how much iron you get from your food.
There are a different types of iron in your body including the iron that helps transport oxygen, your iron stored in your cells and available iron. One major element in the iron equation is also having your vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 balanced.
The blood volume of these vitamins can directly impact whether your body can make and store iron that helps your energy levels. You can aid iron absorption by including vitamin C foods in your meals and some examples of these include tomatoes or tomato puree, oranges, kiwifruit and berries (use frozen when out of season).
6. Are you getting enough protein in your meals
If you miss lunch or eat on the run you might not be getting enough protein in your meals. Proteins are made up of 22 essential amino acids that your body makes from the food that you eat.
If you limit your protein because you are vegetarian or don’t each very much through the day you might find you feel tired. Proteins are essential for repairing your body as well as making cells to keep your immune system strong. Some examples of ensuring you get your essential amino acids is adding pumpkin seeds to your lunches, including meals with eggs and chicken or taking spirulina every day if you are vegetarian or vegan.
If you would like to try some meals that are balanced with science of satisfaction grab you guilt free recipes here
Catherine Sissons - BSc, PGDip Sports Med (The Guilt Free Nutritionist)
Check out the discussion about how stress (including poor sleep) that can impact overall health and wellness including how it contribute to cardiovascular disease and diabetes with Charmaine McGregor (Personal Trainer/Wellness Coach) and Rebecca Davison (Intuitive Life Coach) on The Guilt Free Food TV Channel. Click the image below and watch now.