Written by Kyle Buchanan
Now that we’re slipping back into normal routines, energy is more important than ever. We want to have as much energy as we can, so that we feel well and motivated to tackle the new tasks the fall schedule brings our way.
Of course, one of the best ways to ensure our energy is at its peak, is to get enough sleep, and develop a solid sleep routine that has us brimming with pep in our step. So, let’s talk about some ways we can properly fuel our sleep routine, from the time we wake up to the time our head hits the pillow!
When you wake up in the morning, get some sunshine!
Getting sun exposure in the morning, as close to waking up as possible, helps to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock), and helps you make melatonin (the sleep hormone) at night. So even if you work from home, take some time in the morning to get outside (for as little as five to ten minutes) and allow your eyes to take in the sunshine. Just make sure you don’t look directly at the sun of course!
What you eat during the day fuels your sleep
What you eat on a day-to-day basis not only has an impact on your energy levels, but it also impacts your sleep. So with that, you want to make sure that most of your meals contain a source of protein (which your body uses to make hormones like melatonin) and a variety of veggies, including leafy greens and cruciferous veggies (these provide your body with sleep-supportive minerals like magnesium and potassium). Other helpful food categories to include daily are good fats, like olive oil, avocados and fish oil, and a moderate amount of starches like sweet potato and squashes (especially as we get into fall).
In general, the more whole food/less processed your diet is, the more you ensure you are getting a plethora of nutrients that will fuel both your energy during the day, and your sleep quality at night.
And of course, if you are a coffee or caffeinated tea drinker, stop drinking these beverages by early afternoon. Caffeine takes some time to be cleared from your system (exact time depends on the individual), so it’s always best to stop drinking this sleep-antagonist ingredient no later than 1 or 2 pm.
Additional foods to include at night to fuel your sleep:
If you’re looking for some sleep-specific foods to include at nighttime to ensure a good night's sleep, here are some ideas to have around dinner time (or dessert):
Kiwis: Who knew right? But some studies have shown that 1 to 2 kiwis an hour before bed can help people fall asleep faster.(1) This could be due to kiwis being a natural source of serotonin, which helps regulate our sleep cycle. (2)
Bananas: Bananas contain both magnesium and potassium, as well as trace amounts of tryptophan, the amino acid that helps your melatonin production. (3) So if you love bananas, maybe save them for dessert!
Oatmeal: Oatmeal can be beneficial for sleep for a couple of reasons - the carbohydrate content of the oatmeal stimulates insulin production, which helps promote that drowsy feeling. Research shows it also contains trace amounts of melatonin. (4) This just might be the perfect reason to make some low sugar oatmeal cookies to have on hand!
Tart Cherry Juice: Studies have shown that tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, our sleep hormone. (5) You can buy this as a concentrate at most health food stores.
Sleep-inducing teas: Chamomile, passionflower and lemon balm can help relax the system and calm the mind, helping one fall asleep more quickly!
Limit your screen time at night, or hack it!
Screens from our phones, iPads and TV emit something called Blue Light which can essentially trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime (6), and this can affect your body’s ability to make melatonin. So ideally, you want to shut off your screens at least an hour before bed and read a book instead. But many of us fail to do this, despite our best intentions. So, here are a few ways to “hack” your screens to reduce the amount of blue light emitted:
If you have an iPhone, turn the “night shift” mode on past 7 pm. This will turn your screen more orange and less blue. If you have an Android phone, there’s an app called ‘Twilight’ that will have a similar effect.
For other phones, search your app store for similar apps - there are a lot out there now!
For your computer - especially if you work on it at night, there is a free program called f.lux. F.lux adapts the colour of your computer’s display to the time of day so at night, it’s a warmer colour that is much easier on your eyes.
Lastly, you can also purchase blue-blocking glasses, which help filter out any blue light, and can be worn at night to help you fall asleep faster when it comes to bedtime. I put mine on around 8 pm, and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my own sleep - which is why I recommend them so highly!
Supplement picks to take before bed
If you are having issues sleeping, supplementation might be a useful tool to help restore a healthy sleep cycle. My top pick would be Progressive’s Complete Sleep, it contains sleep-promoting herbs like chamomile, skull cap and Rhodiola (which is one of my favourite stress-management herbs), as well as Melatonin. It’s an effective combo that can help you both fall asleep and stay asleep, and I’ve found it to be a useful tool for some of my clients.
If you want to try melatonin on it’s own, you can look into a Melatonin Spray found here.
When you do sleep, make sure it’s in complete darkness!
It’s essential that when you do go to sleep, you sleep in a pitch black room. Any light seeping through (even light from electronics!) can affect your body’s ability to make melatonin, and your sleep quality can be affected.
So, whatever environment you’re in - make it pitch black. If you live in the country, amazing! If you live in the bright lights of the city or suburbs, consider investing in some blackout blinds. OR, if you can’t do any of those options, like myself, I strongly encourage you to start wearing a sleep mask. It took me some time to get used to wearing one, but I can’t tell you the difference it makes in how rested I feel in the morning.
Sleep is the great healer and is one of the first areas I address with my clients. If you aren’t sleeping properly, all other health goals are much harder to achieve, and take far longer. So, it’s essential that you make it a priority. And if you are having issues sleeping, take into consideration some of the points mentioned in this article, and seek professional help if you feel you need further guidance.
Sweet dreams my friend!
- St-Onge MP, Mikic A, Pietrolungo CE. Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(5):938-949. Published 2016 Sep 15. doi:10.3945/an.116.012336 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27633109/
- Lin HH, Tsai PS, Fang SC, Liu JF. Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2011;20(2):169-174. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21669584/
- Richard DM, Dawes MA, Mathias CW, Acheson A, Hill-Kapturczak N, Dougherty DM. L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009;2:45-60. doi:10.4137/ijtr.s2129
- Meng X, Li Y, Li S, et al. Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin. Nutrients. 2017;9(4):367. Published 2017 Apr 7. doi:10.3390/nu9040367
- Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(8):909-916. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22038497/
- Holzman DC. What's in a color? The unique human health effect of blue light. Environ Health Perspect. 2010;118(1):A22-A27. doi:10.1289/ehp.118-a22 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831986/