Sleep and diet myth-busters with Rachele Pojednic


Remember when your mother & grandmother used to give you warm milk before bed, to help you sleep? Turns out they were onto something, now backed by science. 

This was just one of the many helpful tips we learned from our Pillow Talk interview with Dr. Rachele Pojednic, Professor at Simmons University. She talked us through nutrition myths, sleep cycles, and how to get the day started (without caffeine!).


What are some of the things we commonly get wrong about nutrition & sleep, and how can we fix them?

The major myth is that there is a magic bullet between sleep and nutrition. We do know that there is a connection between what you eat and how you sleep, but it’s going to be a multi-faceted relationship. So, while there may be some foods and supplements that can help you sleep, everybody is different and there is no quick fix! Your overall lifestyle - physical activity, stress, sleep hygiene, daily schedule AND nutrition are all important.
 
Are there foods that can help us sleep? If you hate taking vitamins and supplements, what foods can you eat?

There is some emerging data looking at some foods and their chemical constituents as well as timing that are interesting and may help you get a little extra sleep. First, our body is timed with sleep-wake cycles that mirror dark-light cycles. This is true for both sleep and nutrition. What we are finding is that eating within two hours of going to bed can be problematic for falling and staying asleep and may detrimental affect our overall metabolism. So, try to time your meals and snacks to be less than 120 minutes before you settle down at night. Second, there are some interesting components in food that may be be helpful for sleep and will help to induce melatonin - the sleep hormone - in the body. Tart cherries are naturally high in melatonin and a shot with dinner may help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Lastly, your grandma may have been right…warm milk before bed may also be helpful for a restful sleep. While there is some tryptophan (that little amino acid that can make you drowsy) in milk, that warming moment of relaxation before bed is likely what is helping to ease you into a good night’s sleep. 
 
Beyond caffeine, what foods/drinks can help us rev up in the morning that we may not know about?

Caffeine in coffee and tea definitely works! It helps to boost energy by binding a receptor that blocks adenosine, the molecule that creates sleep drive. You can also help to boost your energy with a big glass of water in the morning. You can become pretty dehydrated overnight by sweating and even just breathing, so replacing that water is key. Beyond nutrition, one of the best things you can do in the morning is stand by a bright window and let the sunshine in! So, maybe grab your coffee and sip it by a sunny window to start your day full of energy (and joy)!

You can follow Rachele on Instagram here.


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