• Martha Lewis

How to eat well to sleep well

There is a difference between eating “healthy” and eating right for your body.

To optimize your diet for sleep, you want to:

  • avoid foods you’re sensitive to

  • keep your blood sugar levels steady

  • balance your macronutrients for your metabolism

  • eat nutrient dense foods

  • anti-inflammatory diet

  • properly prepare grains, legumes, nuts and seeds

  • organic/non-GMO/grass-fed

  • avoid low-carb, low fat and plant-based diets and intermittent fasting

Food Sensitivities

When you eat foods you’re sensitive to, it causes constant, low-grade inflammation in

your body. When your body is inflamed, it releases cortisol because it’s an anti-

inflammatory hormone. When that happens in the night, cortisol wakes you up and

makes it hard to go back to sleep.


Many people are sensitive to the big five foods: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and corn. You

could also be sensitive to foods that we think of as healthy, like nuts or spinach. I don’t

want you to avoid these sensitive foods forever. The goal is to eliminate those foods

temporarily and work on healing the gut so that you're able to tolerate most foods in the

future.


The more food sensitivities you have, the more unhealthy your gut is. And the more

unhealthy your gut is, the more likely a pathogen is able to overtake your gut and

contribute even more to your insomnia.


You can start sleeping better just by changing your diet and avoiding foods you’re

sensitive to.


Blood Sugar

When your blood sugar levels fluctuate from extremely high to extremely low, you’re on

a blood sugar roller coaster. When levels get too high, your body releases insulin and

cortisol to lower your blood sugar.


If you’re on the roller coaster during the day, that continues into the night. When your

blood sugar levels drop too low during the night, your body feels stressed and then

releases cortisol (your stress hormone) which wakes you up. You feel wired and awake

from that cortisol. This is a common reason why many of my clients wake up around

2am and have a hard time falling back asleep. That's why it's important to keep blood

sugar levels steady throughout the day so they stay steady at night as well.


The key to maintaining steady levels is to:

  • avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars in pasta, bread, pastries, candy, and sweets, etc.

  • eliminate processed foods

  • reduce carb intake

  • eat according to your metabolic type (more info below)

  • increase healthy fats

  • reduce foods that quickly convert to glucose (grains, legumes, white potatoes, high glycemic fruits)

Even if you don’t eat many carbs or refined foods, your blood sugar system could be

dysregulated from other systems in your body being out of balance, especially your

hormones. If so, I may recommend a supplement to help stabilize your blood sugar.

If you have blood sugar issues, a snack before bed can keep your blood sugar from

falling too low at night and waking you up. Shoot for 100-200 calories with complex

carbohydrates and protein and fat. Think an apple and almond butter or crackers and

cheese.


Metabolic Typing Diet

Eating the correct balance of macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) for your

metabolism and body is key to being healthy, keeping your blood sugar levels steady

and sleeping well.

According to the metabolic typing diet, there are 3 types of ideal diets: protein,

carbohydrate and mixed. Each type has its ideal ratios of fat, protein and carbs that you

should eat.


If your body is meant to run on more carbs for fuel and you’re giving it too much fat and

protein, it will make you feel tired and cause cravings for sweets.


If your body needs more protein and fat for fuel and you eat too many carbs, it’s like

injecting rocket fuel into your system. Your energy spikes, which can feel like anxiety,

and eventually crashes, making you feel tired and depleted. This roller coaster ride

triggers hormone fluctuations and energy deficits that can cause weight gain and poor

sleep.

I give my clients a Food Balance Log to use to keep track of how they feel after every meal.

If a carb type feels wired but tired or wants to take a nap, you may have eaten too many

carbohydrates. If a protein type has sweet cravings, you've eaten too much fat and

protein. If you need to snack within an hour or two of eating, you may have had too

many carbohydrates or not enough food.


Assessing how you feel after each meal and then fine- tuning your food ratios based on

your body’s feedback will help you figure out your perfect ratios so you have energy all

day and sleep well at night. Use the Food Balance Log to find YOUR ideal ratios. I’ll

explain this log more during our session.

Nutrient Density

It’s important to maximize foods that have many nutrients. Nutrient density is not just

about the measurable amount of nutrients per calorie. Bio-availability and the presence

of anti-nutrients also need to be considered. Grains and legumes often make up the

majority of calories in a person’s diet but their nutrient density is quite low and they are

high in anti-nutrients.


Some of the most nutrient dense foods may surprise you:

  • organ meats (can be from a supplement)

  • raw cacao

  • grass-fed butter (if no sensitivity to dairy)

  • seafood and fish

  • herbs and spices

  • nuts and seeds (properly prepared)


Anti-inflammatory Diet

Since lowering inflammation is key to sleeping better and healing your gut, you want to

avoid inflammatory foods. This includes foods you’re sensitive to and also:

  • alcohol

  • refined sugar

  • processed foods

This also means cooking at home as much as possible so you can control what you eat.

Restaurants use inflammatory oils, aluminum cookware and non-organic foods and

are more likely to be contaminated with gluten.


If you have an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s I suggest following the Auto

Immune Paleo (AIP) and avoiding all inflammatory foods below for 60-90 days even if

they don’t show up on your food sensitivity test:

  • dairy

  • non-gluten grains

  • corn

  • refined sugar

  • alcohol

  • gluten

  • processed foods

  • eggs

  • tomatoes and other night shades

Properly prepare grains, legumes, nuts and seeds

Historically, every culture on earth had a process to prepare grains, legumes, nuts and seeds to make them digestible. They either fermented (think sourdough), sprouted, or soaked these foods to break down the starches and remove enzyme inhibitors such as oxalic and phytic acid that bind to the vitamins and minerals. Properly preparing them makes the nutrients in these foods available to us.


The easiest way to properly prepare grains and legumes is to soak them for at least 8-12 hours with warm filtered water to cover and 2 Tbls of whey, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. If I know I’m cooking rice or lentils for dinner, then I’ll start soaking them in the morning. It takes a little bit more planning, but once you’re in the habit it’s easy.


To soak nuts and seeds, put 4 cups of raw nuts in a large bowl and cover with room temperature water. Add 1 Tbls of sea salt and stir into the mixture. Cover the bowl with a plate or towel and leave on the counter for at least 7 hours (only 6 hours maximum for cashews). If you want crispy nuts, drain and rinse the soaked nuts and dehydrate them in the oven on low or in a dehydrator for about 24 hours or until crunchy. To make nut milk, blend the soaked nuts and soak water in a blender, then strain through a sieve or cheesecloth. Use the leftover pulp in smoothies or raw crackers.


Organic/non-GMO/grass-fed

Our goal is to reduce stress in your body which means lowering toxins and inflammation

as much as possible. To do this, it’s important to eat food that doesn’t have pesticides,

hormones, and other toxins. Eating organic, non-GMO vegetables, fruit, and grains is

extremely important. Grass-fed meats and wild caught seafood also have fewer toxins

and more nutrients.

The Environmental Working Group has lists of produce with the most and fewest

pesticides. Buying local produce and meat so you know where it comes from is the best

way to ensure you’re getting quality food. If you don’t have access to local foods in your

area, there are quite a few online companies that sell quality meat and seafood.


It’s more expensive upfront to buy quality food, but it will save you money in health care

in the long run!


Special diets

The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are found almost exclusively in animal foods.

These vitamins help make a lot of our hormones and neurotransmitters, like dopamine,

serotonin and melatonin, that help us feel good and sleep. You can't get all of these

necessary nutrients from a plant- based diet.


You don't have to eat a lot of "meat" as we think of it (steak, chicken breast, etc.) to get

these nutrients. In fact, non-western cultures eat all parts of the animal (fat, bones for

broth, organs), not just the muscle meat. I recommend plenty of animal foods in

the form of fats like butter and full-fat dairy (if tolerated), eggs and organ meats to be

healthy and sleep well.

Low-carb and ketogenic diets can also ruin your sleep. Everyone is different and these

diets are not good for everyone. You want to have carbohydrates at night so that your

body releases insulin. Insulin helps clear out the amino acids that compete with

tryptophan. At night, you want tryptophan because it converts to serotonin and

melatonin so you can relax and go to sleep.


Intermittent fasting has become a new health craze, especially for weight loss and to

stabilize blood sugar. I do think it can benefit healthy people, but I also believe that it

can be harmful if you aren’t in perfect health, especially if you aren’t sleeping. First of

all, your body gets its cues from light and food to regulate your body clock or circadian

rhythm. it helps to eat regular meals to keep your body clock regulated so that you sleep

better. Secondly, if you’re hungry first thing in the morning, your body is telling you that it

needs fuel. If you ignore it, your blood sugar will drop, your body is going to feel

stressed and it will release stress hormones like cortisol. If you aren’t sleeping well

already, that excess cortisol is going to put your body even more out of whack and

interfere with your sleep the next night. Adding intermittent fasting to insomnia is more

stress than the body can handle.


As you can see, finding your ideal diet is important for your sleep and health. Eating

right for your body is key!

You can see how much food and sleep are complicated and intertwined. Figuring out your perfect diet based on food sensitivities, your metabolic type and blood sugar regulation will help you feel better, sleep better and improve your health.


I know how much not being able to sleep sucks! After figuring out why I couldn’t sleep and correcting it, I'm on a mission to help as many people as possible get the sleep they need so they can live happy, healthy and rested lives.


If you struggle to sleep, you don’t have to live with insomnia forever. If your doctor and your psychologist can’t help you, I can! I’ve been studying nutrition, sleep and functional lab testing for years so I can help you find out what’s causing your insomnia and tell you exactly how to restore your health so you can sleep like a normal person. Book a call with me to find out the exact steps you can take to overcome your sleep issues permanently and naturally!


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