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01 Sep, 2021

How to Feel Great Part 1: Eating for Sleep

To try and dissociate what we choose to eat with how our body then functions is akin to suggesting that you could go swimming and not get wet. This week we're looking at how to eat for sleep.


Great quality rest is something we should all be regularly achieving, yet very few people are.

When it comes to our dietary habits there are a couple of specific points to address when it comes to sorting out our soporific skills (there are definitely a few other key players but for the sake of brevity we’re going to stick to the most common today) and they are circadian support and blood sugar stability.

Our tendencies to be wakeful & sleepy at appropriate times of day are governed by two key hormones - cortisol and melatonin, these are your triggers to get up and go, and then wind down and drift off respectively. They should be produced in 2 lovely mirror image peaks, and this is what we term your circadian rhythm.

The thing is, cortisol is also involved in our stress response (we produce adrenaline when stress is short lived & then cortisol when it continues), and so what we often see is someone’s sleep begins to suffer because their cortisol isn’t 1 peak in the morning, it’s being triggered multiple times or just staying high ongoing. That then means your melatonin doesn’t come in as it should & sleep goes wonky. Another classic thing is to then find that someone stirs into wakefulness between 2-4am as their morning cortisol peak ‘gets lost’, they then go back to sleep for a bit and wake up feeling like they’re crawling out from the bottom of a pond until mid-morning. Not ideal.

So how does food impact this?

Well, what we need to look at is stimulant consumption because caffeine (especially coffee) is a cortisol kicker. If you aren’t sleeping well, it is more than likely you will turn to more stimulants to help you feel energetic and awake, but what I would suggest is that you actually start your day caffeine free. Have water, herbal tea and a good quality breakfast (rich in protein and colourful veg) and then enjoy a single caffeinated beverage mid-morning. Matcha and cacao are stimulating but in a far gentler way than coffee so if you can make a switch to one of these that would be ideal, they also come loaded with antioxidants so will positively feedback into supporting your cellular energy production as well.

To touch briefly on the blood sugar balancing element too; if someone isn’t settling into a consistent sleep and finds themselves snacking during the day and/or beleaguered by sweet cravings this can often mean they are then also having blood sugar fluctuations at night which causes them to stir. The points I mention already are integral here as blood sugar and the stress response are intricately linked, but I would then also add the further suggestions too:

  • Go savoury for breakfast,
  • Make a concerted effort to have 3 meals per day with good gaps between them,
  • Concentrate on a hand sized portion of protein at every meal,
  • Choose whole grains (e.g. brown rice or quinoa) rather than white versions,
  • Make sure each meal definitely has 2 handfuls of fibrous non-starchy veg in it,
  • Choose fresh tart fruits (berries, citrus, cherries, kiwi) and naturally sweet veg (e.g. tomatoes or peppers) and yoghurt or hummus over dried fruit or other sweet treats for about 7 days. This allows your taste perception to change & those cravings to die down.


At Detox Kitchen we deliver fresh, nourishing meals to your door to help you feel your best. Choose between our Meal Plans for a full-body detox (London-only) or 3-Day Reset (available nationwide), or Fridge Fills to have quick healthy meals on hand.

Words: London based Nutritional Therapist Phoebe Liebling. More information on her clinical services can be found on her website, and her Instagram feed as @_naturalnourishment.