We know that what we eat has an impact on our body - sugar is the new ‘fat’ to avoid - and that if we eat spicy foods there is a chance that we will suffer heartburn from reflux when we lay down to rest. But does food have an impact on our sleep patterns?
I laud the benefit of eating a small piece of solid protein immediately prior to bedtime to stop you waking at 3 to 4am and feeling worried. It works for most of those I know who now do this, research says it works for 80 to 90% of people. Cheese (crazy dreams), egg, chicken, etc. all contain tryptophan which assists with sleep.
We also know that if you eat too much food just before bedtime you will have difficulty in getting to sleep as the stomach works overtime to digest the energy before you can get to sleep. This has to do with the production of insulin which is produced in the pancreas to help break down carbohydrates and fats and enables glucose to move from the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. Glucose is of course a sugar.
Our circadian rhythm works on timing - our most common natural sleep pattern is from 11pm to 7am and is mostly due to light and darkness. This rhythm is also partly affected by when we eat.
A 2013 study at Yale University found that eating two meals per day may be most beneficial for the synchronization of our biological clocks. The study suggested that those who wake up early in the morning, eating breakfast and lunch and skipping dinner is best for the circadian rhythm synchronisation. Night owls should eat lunch and dinner as their two meals. But eating just two meals isn’t good for our weight control.
The key to all of this secondary circadian rhythm is inside the liver, the lipid levels. (It's about now in my research that my eyes glazed over and I wanted to go to sleep so I quickly moved on).
So that I don't lose the message I am trying to make, the bottom line is that we should try to get most of our calories earlier in the day, and have lighter, earlier evening meals when possible in order to get a better sleep and to avoid putting on weight.
You should try to eat no later than four hours before you go to bed, except for that little snack of protein of course. This gives your body plenty of time to digest the food and gain the benefits of the diet/sleep patterns. Coincidentally, or maybe not, this is usually the same time as the sun goes down. Have you noticed how you start to get tired about four hours after dusk?
So what to eat. The worst foods to eat at night are those heavy in fat and carbohydrates as well as processed foods. The best foods to eat at night are walnuts, almonds, lettuce, tuna, cheese, rice, kale, shrimps, crayfish, humus, honey and cherries.
That sounds like a pretty good salad to me if you throw in a little chicken.