In the last post, I discussed different sleep aids that you can use to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. This is important for facilitating recovery from challenging runs that you have and will allow your body to undergo certain adaptations, which will allow you to become a better runner.
As I promised, I will discuss other sleep aids in this post, focusing on what you eat and the timing of what you eat, as well as supplements.
What and When You Eat Matters
The food you eat before bed can affect your sleep. Research has shown that a high-carbohydrate meal may be detrimental to sleep. Even though a high-carbohydrate meal can get you to fall asleep faster, it will not be a restful sleep. Instead, high-fat meals can promote a deeper and more restful sleep. If you still want to eat a high-carbohydrate meal for dinner, you should eat it at least four hours before bed, so you have enough time to digest it.
Avoiding caffeine before bed is also important and for some people caffeine should not be taken less than eight hours before bed to optimize quality and quantity of sleep.
Certain Foods with Sleep Promoting Properties
Taking the following foods before bed (such as dinner or dessert) can be helpful in promoting both sleep quality and quantity.
Almonds: Almonds are a source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Almonds are also an excellent source of magnesium which also may help improve sleep quality. In fact, my wife and I have had success as far as sleep quality when taking almond milk before bed.
Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in the brain to promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.
Kiwi: Kiwi contains serotonin which regulates your sleep cycle. The antioxidants (vitamin C and carotenoids) in kiwis may also help promote sleep due to their anti-inflammatory effects. This is another food that my wife and I have been eating before bed, which also seems to be beneficial.
Tart Cherry Juice: May be an effective sleep promoter due to its high melatonin content.
Fatty Fish: Including salmon, trout, and mackeral contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and this combination has the potential to enhance sleep quality because both increase production of serotonin.
Walnuts: Walnuts are one of the best food sources for melatonin. Walnuts also contain fatty acids that help increase the production of serotonin.
Passionflower Tea: Contains apigenin, an antioxidant that produces a calming effect and increases GABA, a brain chemical that inhibits other brain chemicals that induce stress.
There are too many to talk about one blog post, however I will mention a few. Be aware that there is always the potential issue of the quality of supplements and possible side effects. So you should check with your physician before taking any supplements.
Melatonin: I recommend using this sparingly, such as when you experience jet lag from travel, because taking this often can affect our body’s natural production of melatonin. This supplement may also be beneficial for daytime sleep quality for those whose schedules require them to sleep during the daytime.
MCT or coconut oil: take 30-60 minutes before bed. Dave Asprey discusses the use of MCT oil in his book The Bulletproof Diet as a helpful sleep aid. MCT or coconut oil can be effective for minimizing any food cravings that might keep you awake, because it provides a slow-burning source of fat fuel and won’t cause insulin levels to spike, which occurs when you have carbohydrates or protein. Dave provides a recipe for a beverage called the Non-Coffee Vanilla Latte, which specifically incorporates MCT or coconut oil. I have used this beverage to help improve my own sleep. Here’s the recipe:
- 2 cups of hot filtered water
- 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or ghee
- 2 tablespoons MCT or organic coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened vanilla powder
- ½ teaspoon organic cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of cardamom or ½ teaspoon of raw organic honey
- Add all ingredients to a blender and process until all are incorporated. It is important that they are blended with blender, Vitamix, etc. and not just stirred by hand
Magnesium: Magnesium promotes sleep by reducing inflammation and it reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep. Magnesium also appears to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain messenger with calming effects. The best forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, aspartate and chelate because they are the most absorbable forms. Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide.
Valerian Root: Valerian root is one of the most commonly used sleep-promoting herbal supplements in the US and Europe. However, safety remains uncertain for long-term use, and in special populations such as pregnant and lactating women.
Glycine: Glycine is an amino acid thought to act in part by lowering body temperature at bedtime, signaling that it’s time to sleep.According to the research, taking fewer than 31 grams per day appears to be safe, however more studies are needed.
L-Theanine: Consuming a daily supplement containing 200-400 mg of this amino acid may help improve sleep and relaxation.
CBD oil: now legal in at least 30 states, this supplement has gained popularity as a sleep aid the past few years, although research is limited as far as its effectiveness. There are people that I know, including my wife, who swear by CBD oil as an effective sleep aid.
If you have, or suspect you have sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder, you should meet with a specialist, if you haven’t already doe so, to be assessed and have a treatment plan developed for you.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.
Please feel free to share this with anyone you feel might benefit.
Your friend and coach,
The Bulletproof Die. Dave Asprey, Rodale Inc: 2014.
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