Trying to lose weight? Obviously, diet plays a huge role, along with exercise. But did you know that how much you sleep and the quality of your sleep also plays a crucial part in weight management?
And according to recent research, one way to improve your sleep quality is by getting enough specific nutrients. I’ll share with you what these sleep-inducing nutrients are in just a bit…
The Link Between Obesity & Insomnia
But first, let me briefly explain why I think the link between diet and sleep quality is fascinating. Mostly, it’s because few people think of the connection between weight management and sleep. For the millions of Americans who suffer from insomnia, the most pressing concern is the stress and anxiety caused by chronic lack of sleep.
While habit-forming sleeping pills are the most common solution, perhaps the easiest and most overlooked sleep remedy is eating a healthier diet. After all, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the obesity epidemic has been paralleled by a trend of reduced sleep duration and quality.
Poor Sleep & Hunger Hormones
But how exactly are poor sleep and weight gain connected?
One explanation is sleep’s effects on hunger hormones. Everybody has hunger hormones. There are two primary ones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin hormone signals your brain that you’re full. Ghrelin does the opposite. Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant that tells the brain, “Feed Me!”
In experimental studies, in which people were woken up prematurely (you couldn’t pay me enough to participate in that study), researchers found that the participants experienced changes in their appetite hormones. The sleep-deprived subjects had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin.
And in another study, just six nights of 4 hours of sleep in men and women aged 30–45 years was associated with eating more unhealthy fats.
Other studies show that poor-quality sleep not only can lead to weight gain, it also may contribute to metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. And here’s more bad news if you’re getting poor sleep: insomnia can also be a contributing factor to heart disease.
Poor Sleep Leads To More Calories
I cringe when I hear the simplistic weight loss formula, Weight = Calories In vs Calories Out.
Granted, if you eat 3,000 calories of junk food a day, you’ll probably gain weight. (Unless you’re a genetic freak of nature.) But 100 calories of kale isn’t the same as 100 calories of donuts.
However, in some ways the simple calories in vs calories out is true. And what studies show is that less sleep leads to more calories eaten. And chances are, if you’re feeling sluggish from lack of sleep, you’re not going to have the energy to exercise. Furthermore, poor sleep also affects mood; you’re more likely to reach for comfort food when you’re sleep deprived—especially sugary snacks to give you a short-lived energy boost for the afternoon slump).
The better your sleep, the more likely you are to manage your weight. So what foods lead to better sleep quality?
Calcium In Leafy Greens
When most people think of the bone-building mineral, calcium, they think of milk and other dairy products. But dairy can promote inflammation in the body. A much better source of calcium is green leafy veggies, like the two kinds of kale in my Green Drink recipe.
Research suggests that if you don’t get enough calcium, you may have a more difficult time falling asleep. But there’s far more sleep benefits in green leafy veggies, according to research. These plants also contain micronutrients which may also influence sleep, such as tryptophan, potassium, magnesium, fiber, iron, calcium, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, choline, complex carbs, and beta carotene.
And when you drink cold-blended Green Drink, the fiber is preserved. Fiber has been shown to be associated with deeper and more restorative sleep.
Green veggies (and yellow ones) also contain the eye-health promoting antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. Not only do these antioxidants help you see better in the dark, they also help you sleep better. That’s because lutein and zeaxanthin filter out blue light.
Blue light, which is emitted from your smart phone, TV and other devices interferes with production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
In addition, green leafy veggies contain lycopene (another great source: tomato paste) and beta carotene, which have also been associated with less difficulty falling asleep.
Selenium For Sleep
The trace mineral, selenium has also been linked to sleep quality. If you eat sustainable sources of seafood along with nuts, you’re getting enough selenium. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources. They are high in calories so make sure you limit the serving size to just one handful.
Besides its effect on sleep, this macronutrient is also linked to immune function and inflammation response.
Less Vitamin C intake was associated with non-restorative sleep. Red and yellow peppers contain mega C. Brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, strawberries and cauliflower are other healthy sources rich in C.
I don’t eat that much animal protein. But one reason I include wild salmon in my diet (along with the occasional tuna when I’m at a sushi restaurant) is because it contains a good amount of vitamin B6. Among the many benefits of this water-soluble vitamin (also called pyridoxine), one of them is melatonin production.
Magnesium is important for sleep because not getting enough of this mineral in your diet is linked to problems staying asleep. A great source of magnesium is grains. Not all grains are good for you, however, especially ones that don’t have a lot of nutrients and get digested too quickly. Barley, wild rice, amaranth, and triticale are a few examples of magnesium-rich grains that your body takes a long time to digest. (The longer it takes to digest, the less cravings you’ll have.
Don’t Eat This And That If You Want A Good Night’s Sleep
If you want to fall asleep fast, limit your intake of dairy and meat. Palmitic acid is a saturated fat. It’s found in butter, cheese, milk, and meat. One study shows that diets high in palmitic acid led to an increased difficulty in falling asleep. Another study reported rats fed a diet rich in palmitic acid, were unable to regulate their food intake.
The bottom line is that if you want to sleep better, it’s yet another reason you should get lots of green leafy veggies in your diet. I created the Organic Green Drink to make it very easy to get your daily dose of them. So Drink Up!
And if you need more guidance on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat, when you sign up for a Green Drink Plan, or one of my Cleanse & Detox programs, you’ll receive all my healthy eating guidelines for long-term weight loss success!
To your health,
Veronica — Founder, Chef V