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Year of YOU- The Link between Sleep and Metabolism

If you're just joining us, our April series, Year of You, has been looking into all the different ways we can shift our mindsets- and our habits- to refocus on our most valuable resource- ourselves. We started with the importance of Prioritizing Ourselves and embracing our individuality when it comes to nutrition. Next, we took it a step further to look at Nutritional Self-Care. This week, we're diving into an area that many of us tend to overlook: the elusive link between sleep and metabolism.

Let's start with a quick refresher about what we mean by nutrition. Our nutrition consists of the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals that we get from foods, drinks and supplements. Our bodies need a healthy balance of these to function properly. In other words, nutrition serves as the backbone to our health, and that includes our sleep. Afterall, we do spend roughly one third of our lives asleep!


Growing evidence suggests that sufficient nutrient intake is necessary for optimal sleep. One large study found a lack of key nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and several essential vitamins to be associated with poor sleep quality. What foods should we be consuming to ensure that we aren't lacking in these departments?

  • Calcium: milk, cheese, leafy greens, and dried beans
  • Magnesium: avocados, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate
  • Vitamin C: sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower
  • Vitamin D: oily fish, red meats and egg yolks
  • Vitamin E: nuts, seeds, pumpkin and leafy greens

Another well-known link between sleep and nutrition is the effect high-carbohydrate foods on poor sleep quality. High carb meals (think pastas, breads, sugars, etc.) are known to make us drowsy, which can make it tougher for us to make healthy food choices? They also increase the number of times we wake up during the night and reduce our time spent in deep sleep cycles. 

So how exactly does sleep deprivation affect our diets? Studies have shown that even mild sleep restriction can lead to increased levels of leptin and ghrelin, the two hormones that regulate our appetites. In other words, inadequate sleep leads to feeling hungrier and consuming more- and often reaching for less-healthy options, which can all lead to potential weight gain. 


So which hormones are directly affected by sleep and our circadian rhythms?

  • leptin
  • gherlin
  • melatonin
  • cortisol
  • growth hormone

When we don't sleep well for extended periods of time, it can greatly affect our hormonal rhythms and our metabolism. This sleep disturbance is associated with obesity, insulin insensitivity, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, and appetite regulation issues.

Getting good, quality sleep can improve our decision-making when it comes to food choices and contribute to a well-rounded healthy diet or weight-loss plan. It's been proven that people who are trying to lose weight have better results when they get better sleep. Sleeping well can reduce our tendency to over-consume AND encourage increased physical activity by helping us wake more rested and energetic. In other words, healthy sleep habits play a direct role in maintaining a healthy metabolism.


 Here are some tips for helping you improve your sleep quality:

  1. Optimize your sleep environment: ideally, your bedroom will be quiet, dark, cool and comfortable.
  2. Stick to a routine: By following the same routine every night, you're helping your body get the message that it's time for sleep.
  3. Avoid screen time: No TV or phone for at least an hour before bed.
  4. Eat earlier in the evening: Try to avoid eating within three hours of bedtime. Reducing caffeine and spicy foods can also help.
  5. Increase daytime activity, preferably outdoors: Your body rests best when it's tired and when it's had adequate daylight exposure.
  6. Optimize your nutrition for sleep health: That's our specialty! Let's work together to get your best sleep yet!


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