How to sleep better: a nutritionist explains why the relationship between sleep and nutrition is so important

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The relationship between sleep and diet is more important than you think – here, we take a look at a few of nutritionist and personal trainer Keris Marsden’s top tips from Stylist’s Restival.

What does being “healthy” look like to you? For some of us, it’s eating a nutrient-rich diet, whereas for others, it’s taking part in endorphin-boosting exercise. But among all of these attempts to live a healthy lifestyle, we’re missing one vital detail: all aspects of our health – including our nutrition, exercise and sleep – are connected.

That was the message behind Keris Marsden’s talk on nutrition and sleep at Stylist’s Restival earlier today. Taking to the stage to discuss how we can eat our way to healthy sleep, the nutritionist and personal trainer began by stressing how interlinked our bodies are.

“It’s important to understand that nutrition doesn’t just exist on its own,” she said. “So think about the fact that if you have a bad night’s sleep – I’m not sure if you’re aware – but it actually up-regulates your appetite hormones, so it makes you hungrier.”

With that foundation laid, Marsden went on to tackle the relationship between the food we eat and the sleep we get, highlighting the role of hormones in the sleep process. For example, our levels of serotonin – a hormone which is essential in the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone – can be boosted by eating certain foods, including (cue celebratory applause) chocolate.

“Chocolate is an essential resource for the body, wouldn’t you agree? In all my days, in everything I’ve learnt about nutrition this has been the same gold standard, there’s not been a day I don’t think in my life where I’ve not consumed chocolate,” Marsden said. “It increases serotonin – serotonin helps you fall asleep at night. So there you go.”

Keris Marsden talks about the relationship between sleep and nutrition at Stylist's Restival
Keris Marsden: “It’s important to understand that nutrition doesn’t just exist on its own.”

She added: “What’s really important to note is we have hormones that wake us up in the morning – I’m not sure if you know but cortisol wakes us up in the morning, and then cortisol dips across the day and passes the baton to the melatonin, and melatonin helps you sleep. But all of your hormones communicate with one another.

“So insulin, which regulates your energy and blood sugar throughout the day, will affect your cortisol and your melatonin. So there’s always that communication going on. So what you eat, when you eat and also how you eat as well, can affect your hormones.”

Instead of thinking of our diet and our sleep as two completely different issues, Marsden’s talk has proved that it’s about time we started treating the pair as two sides of the same coin. When we’re thinking about our sleep – and stressing out about not getting enough of it – it can be easy to forget that there are plenty of variables at play, and it’s important to educate ourselves about the types of foods which work best for our body. 

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Images: Bronac McNeill

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