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Improve Your Sleep: Eat Better = Sleep Better

Your belly is full, your eyes are heavy, those fries on the side were a big commitment but there’s no turning back now, it’s only lunch time, you turn to your bleary eyed colleagues and say “I’m fit for bed after that!” If you have ever felt sleepy after a meal then you will have no doubt food and sleep is intrinsically linked. All too often the relationship between diet and sleep is overlooked and we forget the accumulative affect our daily diet can have on our quality of sleep.

This week we look at the positive and negative affect certain foods have on sleep and how your diet and appetite could be affecting your sleep. We’ll finish off with a 3 course meal comprising of a drink, a dinner and a snack, to help you descend safely into the land of nod.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly 

The Good: Melatonin & Magnesium

These aren’t your usual M&M’s. Melatonin is a hormone natural to your body that manifests when you are tired. Often called the “sleep hormone” there are a variety of foods help boost your Melatonin levels. Bananas, Jasmine rice and Cherries are amongst the most potent, but other foods like Walnuts and Bell Peppers also supply an ample amount.

Usually associated with the periodic table (not your dinner table) Magnesium is an element found naturally in food that relaxes your body and can induce a deep sleep. Nuts like Almonds are rich in Magnesium, but it is also plentiful in dark leafy greens like Spinach and a variety of fish such as Mackerel and Tuna.

The Bad: Caffeine & Tyramine

It’s no secret that caffeine will affect your energy levels. Try to resist coffee when it is too late in the day. Research shows that just one cup of coffee 6 hours before bed can affect an average sleeper by up to an hour!

Tyramine is an amino acid that helps the body to release Neopinephrine - a brain stimulant that heightens awareness and alerts the senses. As you can imagine alerting the brain this way is not ideal before you hit the hay. If you are looking for a snack before bedtime make sure to stay away from any cured or smoked meats, like ham, bacon or most Italian/Spanish meats, they contain high levels of Tyramine and could leave you tossing and turning all night.

The Ugly: Sugar

Stay away from any sugar rich foods before bed! Those couple of biscuits or bit of milk chocolate can have detrimental effects on you sleep pattern. The sugar high will alert your body that you should stay active and ultimately delay any oncoming sleep. When you do finally drift to sleep, sugar levels will continue to drop. Hypoglycemia then sets in (when your sugar level drops to a low level) and can result in unnecessary restlessness. In the morning you will have low energy levels and feel generally fatigued.


How does Sleep affect Diet & Appetite?

Have you ever heard the saying; if you snooze you lose? When it comes to diet and appetite that may be more accurate than you realise. Sleep deprivation and increase in appetite are now strongly linked. Recent studies show that those who get an average of 7-9 hours’ sleep a night have a smaller appetite the following day than their sleep deprived counterparts.

The reason why? Leptin & Ghrelin

Most of us will have never heard of these funny sounding hormones but they are amongst the most important aspects of controlling your appetite. Leptin is an appetite suppressing hormone released by fat cells that signal the brain that you are full. Ghrelin on the other hand is a peptide secreted by the stomach that stimulates appetite.

When you are sleep deprived your level of Leptin decreases while your Ghrelin increases. One 2010 survey showed that after 2 consecutive nights of 4 hours of sleep, Leptin level can decrease by 18 percent. What’s interesting is that Ghrelin levels changed as well and increased by up to 28 percent!

Studies also found that sleep deprivation increases craving for junk and fatty foods. The brain is powered by glucose. When you are sleep deprived your brain has hard time driving glucose to your brain cells. As a result your brain becomes desperate for high sugar and high carbohydrate foods. 

The result is inevitable; increased appetite because your leptin is low and ghrelin is high. Your brain triggering responses that it needs high fat foods. Those two involuntary functions greatly decrease your chances of eating healthy nutritious food. Over an extended period of time a poor sleep eat pattern will result in a poor diet and inevitable weight gain.

…but that is the glass half empty view. The other way of looking at it is that you can literally sleep your way to better health. Getting an average 8 hours decreases ghrelin and increases leptin. You’ll avoid those groggy morning’s and have sole control of your appetite.

Eat your way to a better sleep! We’ve put together 3 recipes that will help tickle you sleep senses.

For Dinner – Pan Fried Mackerel with Broccoli and Pine Nuts


  •  500g mackerel fillets
  •  1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary,
  •  1 teaspoon salt,
  • 2 heads broccoli,
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil,
  •  1 small onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup water


  • Cut the broccoli into florets with 2-inch-long stalks. Cut the florets in half lengthwise. Put in a simmering pan of water for about 4 minutes and remove.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes (or turn translucent).
  • Add raisins, pine nuts and the rosemary; toss to coat with oil.
  • Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the pine nuts are golden brown.
  • Add the cooked broccoli.
  • Heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the mackerel, skinned-side up, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Turn the, mackerel over, remove the pan from the heat and let stand until just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  •  Place the cooked mackerel with the pine nuts and broccoli mix and enjoy!

A Snack – Peanut Butter and banana bagel

Ok so snacking before bed is always a bad idea. But if you are desperate for a nibble before bed you should try our ultra-easy Banana & Peanut Butter Bagel.


  • 2 tablespoons of natural nut butter.
  • 1 whole wheat bagel
  •  Small banana


  • Chop a banana, toast the bagel, spread the nut butter.
  •  Eat it! Delicious!


A Drink - Cherry & Vanilla Juice

Extensive research is proving that tart cherry juice is a great way to get some zzz’s. If you are struggling with your sleep try this delicious drink and see if it helps.


  • 5-8 ounces of tart cherry juice
  •   A drop or 2 of vanilla extract


  • Take about 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
  • Vanilla is optional but has an added relaxing side effect.