The Top 6 Ways to Improve Sleep Using Food
By: Dave Asprey
December 7, 2012
Most people have a hard time connecting what they eat with how their brains work later. Researchers are only beginning to understand how things like fructose make your brain not work as well. If you mention to most scientists that grass-fed butter makes you think faster, they look at you as if you had a second head (which is a perfect analogy, since I feel twice as smart when I eat more butter. 😉
Not only does the Bulletproof Diet make you smarter, it also helps you improve sleep. Sleep problems are often brain problems, and brain solutions are also sleep solutions. Eating the Bulletproof Diet gets most people much closer to where they need to be in terms of sleep quality and quantity, but everyone can benefit from a little extra sleep quality. I use these techniques when I’m traveling or under a lot of stress. Here are the top six ways you can use diet to improve your sleep.
1. Fill up with fat at dinner.
Fat is like diesel fuel for your mind and body. If your brain is always running on sugar, you get large blood sugar swings that make you tired, but also hungry, which is exactly what you don’t want If you’re trying to fall asleep.
Filling up with clean fats before bedtime gives you a steady stream of energy that prevents hunger and blood sugar swings. Grass-fed butter, animal fat, and coconut oil are all good choices, but MCT oil is my personal favorite. MCT oil is converted into ketones, which are immediately used as fuel for your brain. MCT oil also helps burn body fat while you sleep.
I’ve also noticed that I think faster and more clearly the next morning if I eat 1-2 tablespoons of MCT the night before with dinner, or even right before bed. It works even better with protein. Caution: if you’re not used to any MCT at all, start slowly – too much MCT can cause the runs, which definitely keep you from sleeping well.
2. Prime your system with protein.
We use protein for muscle repair and immune function. Your body repairs muscle tissue at night during deep sleep, and you want to make sure it has everything it needs to heal and grow new tissue. The problem is that most forms of protein are not well digested before bed. A lot of protein powders, and even most animal protein sources are fairly digestion intensive, so they can leave you with a heavy feeling during the night. They also take resources to digest that would be better used fueling your brain.
I recommend taking 1-2 tablespoons of hydrolyzed grass-fed collagen peptide before bed. Hydrolyzing the proteins makes them more digestible, so they don’t cause the problems listed above. When hydrolysis is done right (with enzymes not acids), it doesn’t create MSG.
3. Enjoy the power of whey protein.
Upgraded Whey has some unique benefits in terms of sleep. It’s easily digested, full of essential amino acids for repairing your body, and it contains bioactive milk peptides (BMPs). BMPs are one of the most promising new supplements for improving sleep and reducing stress. BMPs are actually sourced from whey protein, but they’re a lot more expensive after processing. These proteins are most effective in their undenatured form. Heating and pressurizing them actually reduces their effects, which is why I’ve always preferred to get BMPs from cold-processed whey protein concentrate rather than pill form. The most effective whey protein I’ve tested for improving sleep is Upgraded Whey, which also has added bovine serum albumin to increase glutathione levels. More glutathione helps your liver remove toxins that interfere with sleep.
4. Try a tad of raw honey.
During the night, your brain uses a lot of energy. One efficient form of brain energy comes from sugar stored in your liver, called liver glycogen. Your brain taps your liver glycogen before hitting your muscle glycogen (stored sugar in your muscles), so having a little extra sugar before bed can help your brain function better at night. Raw honey is preferentially used to stock liver glycogen, so it is used first for brain function.
Raw honey is 22% better at making liver glycogen than the cooked, conventional stuff you’re likely to find at the supermarket. Taken without protein, a small amount of honey will raise blood glucose while you sleep too. I was skeptical of this trick when I first heard about it in The Honey Revolution, but I found it does work well as long as you don’t combine it with protein.
Especially when you’re doing BP Intermittent Fasting or eating very few carbs, you can get more deep sleep when you take a small amount of raw honey. At first I assumed that taking raw honey before bed would throw me out of fat burning mode, but as long as MCT oil was taken with the honey, enough ketones were produced to stay in fat burning mode. Take 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey before bed if it helps with your sleep.
5. Fuel up with low-mercury fish (or krill oil).
You’ve already learned how DHA can protect against the negative effects of fructose on brain function, but it can also help improve your sleep. Omega-3s have been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression. They also improve insulin sensitivity and muscle growth. Consuming omega-3s before bed gives your brain the substrates it needs for growth and repair.
The best sources of omega-3s are Bulletproof foods like low-mercury fish and seafood. These foods also provide the protein you need for muscle repair before bed. However, I’ve found that krill oil gives me the best sleep. I’ve experimented with various kinds of fish oil, and pretty much every other omega-3 supplement you can think of, and only krill oil has made a noticeable impact. I recommend consuming your fish or Krill oil at least two hours before bedtime. Avoid flax oil and hempseed oil because they are high in omega 6 and low in DHA and EPA. They are not Bulletproof foods.
6. Enjoy your coffee…in the morning.
Bulletproof Coffee is magical stuff, but caffeine isn’t exactly the best sleep aid. Drinking Bulletproof Coffee puts your mind into an amazing place where you become more productive and perform better. However, you also need to let your mind rest after its high output performances. In general, don’t drink coffee after 2:00 PM, or at least 8 hours before bedtime, which ever comes first. This will make sure you get all of the cognitive benefits of caffeine without sacrificing your sleep. Some people need more than 8 hours of caffeine avoidance to sleep with maximum performance.
It strikes me as odd that most people don’t connect what they eat with how they sleep… but then again, biohackers like me strike people as odd when we add a half a stick of butter to our coffee.
It’s pretty simple. Some MCT oil before bed gives your brain the short chain fats is craves to function during the night. Taking a few scoops of collagen protein mixed with whey protein gives you essential amino acids for repair, and bioactive milk peptides for calming your nervous system. Raw honey stocks your liver glycogen so your brain has that little bit of extra fuel to help deep sleep. Krill oil gives your neurons the fertilizer they need to function optimally. Timing your coffee intake to the morning hours makes sure you keep your brain sharp when you need it, but still give it rest during the night.
Here’s what the entire protocol would look like:
- 1-2 Tbs of MCT oil.
- 1-2 Tbs of collagen protein.
- 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey.
- 1 gram of krill oil.
- 1 cup of Bulletproof Coffee (before 2:00PM, or at least 8 hours before bedtime.)
If you’re interested in more tips to supercharge your sleep, feel better, be healthier, and do more, sign up for the Bulletproof Toolbox using the link at the right. A sleep book is in the works too! What sleep problems have you had? What helps you maximize your sleep?