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Sleeping For Better SnackingPublished:
Winding down at night can be ritualistic and oftentimes includes late night Netflix’ing with a glass of wine, a sweet treat, or maybe crunching on some salty snack foods like chips or popcorn. The following day snack time looks something like this: a three o’clock visit to the vending machine at work, or running out to the coffee shop for the usual frappuccino. Have you ever considered that your sleep, or lack of, might be influencing your snack choices? My guess is a resounding no. It is no surprise that sleep quality and duration are affected by our diet, but a new and informative study looks at how getting too little sleep can translate to what we choose to eat between meals.
It appears that those of us who are getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to consume snack foods higher in carbohydrates, fats, sugar, and caffeine. When we fill ourselves with these lower quality, pro-inflammatory foods we leave less “space” for the anti-inflammatory, better-for-you foods like vegetables, whole grains, omega-3 rich fish, fruits, and healthy plant fats like avocados and nuts. Higher intakes of refined carbohydrates, added sugar, fat, and salt leave us wanting more. This hamster wheel type of eating can lead to dangerous metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Quality of sleep can be affected by our diet choices as well. Consuming foods with less fiber, and higher in sugar and saturated fat, can lead to sleep that is more disruptive and less rejuvenating. Conversely, eating foods higher in protein and less saturated fat can help us to start catching those z’s faster.
Incorporating protein sources, and even more specifically those containing tryptophan, an essential amino acid that our body cannot make so we must get it from food, is important to the health of our brain and our slumber. By converting tryptophan to the relaxation hormones serotonin and melatonin can not only improve our sleep, but also our mood. Because protein-containing foods have many types of amino acids other than tryptophan, you don’t have to worry about falling asleep at the desk after your snack.
Good sources of tryptophan include milk and milk-containing foods such as Greek yogurt and cheese, fish from foods like canned tuna and salmon, meats (but not limited to) turkey and chicken, and plant foods from nuts, seeds, soy, and spinach. General healthy snack recommendations often include pairing protein with complex carbs. Snacks geared toward better sleep are no different. Tryptophan appears to do a better job of creating serotonin when eaten along with a source of carbohydrates. Another benefit to consuming complex carbs as part of an afternoon snack is that it helps to prevent blood sugars from dipping too low, and causing us to crash.
So tonight try setting the sleep feature on your smartphone to alert you when it is time to hit the hay in order to get a tight 7 (or more) hours of sleep. Tomorrow, break off your relationship with the vending machine and consider incorporating some of these quick and easy, no-fuss, healthy snacks options into your new, healthier lifestyle : Greek yogurt topped with berries and a sprinkle of nuts, tuna such as Chicken of the Sea Infusions with whole grain crackers, cheese stick with fruit, and ICONIC grab and go protein drink made with grass fed milk protein isolate and has zero sugar. If you feel like you want a boost of caffeine in the afternoon hours, we’ve got you covered. ICONIC offers a Cafe Latte flavored protein drink with a modest 100mg of caffeine and 20g of protein per 11.5 oz bottle. You’ll likely find you have more energy during the day, and better sleep at night than you did after polishing off a coffee shop specialty drink loaded with sugar and caffeine.
Aimee Plauche, RD, LDN
Nutritional Wellness Consulting