In a recent article at Polar.com I was intrigued to hear a different perspective on what we should eat or drink before we go to sleep
One of these changes was consuming some higher glycemic index carbohydrate meals a couple of hours before bed. These have been shown to help people fall asleep more quickly, increase REM sleep and decrease light sleep.
Consuming tart cherry juice (which contains melatonin) is something else I did just before bed. It has also shown to increase sleep duration, sleep efficiency and reduce inflammation and markers for insomnia. It has the added bonus of reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and inflammatory response post-training in marathoners.
I cannot be certain that it had a direct impact, but seven days into this practice and my sleep was remarkably improved. Kiwifruit is another example of a food I will be adding to my diet; the combination of micronutrients it contains appears to be beneficial in extending quality sleep.
I’m sure that all makes perfect scientific sense but here are some thoughts from me
I subscribe to the Laura Trott-Kenny School of Milk. She had a pint of milk before going to bed and managed to win lots of Olympic Gold medals. Milk provides protein and cow’s milk naturally has just about everything your body needs (but not quite everything). Well, I say ‘naturally has everything‘ but I’m not sure that drinking the milk from the lactations of another species is entirely natural. But hey…I do it…it’s nice. I sometimes combine my bedtime milk with Rice Krispies, mainly because it makes me seem VERY much younger than I really am. You might say there is too much sugar there but the British government have just about banned sugar in everything, including Rice Krispies although, after a while, Rice Krispies seem to taste the same as when you were really a kid despite the lack of sugar.
I remember once reading that milk better hydrates you than water. Even if that’s not quite true it’s ‘up there’ on the hydration league table.
An alternative for overnight protein action is SiS Overnight Protein which I tried a couple of years back and which ‘didn’t hurt’. Milk is definitely cheaper though.
I then went through a phase of 4 am toilet breaks, which is definitely a sign that I’m getting older and is also definitely disruptive to a good night of recovery sleep. But after having my appendix whipped out earlier this year and cutting down on my late evening WATER intake, I seemed to have mostly kicked the 4 am toilet habit. Perhaps investing in a decent mattress also helped? I bought a MEMORY FOAM TOPPER…as the name implies it sits on TOP of your existing mattress and is VERY significantly cheaper (eg £30 ish) than a full memory foam mattress whilst still delivering the same comfort and sleep benefits.
The Polar article (above) also recommended TART CHERRY JUICE. I’ve never tried that myself but I did once get a job lot of sachets of Cherry Active. I got those at the same time as a job lot of Beet Active sachets from the same supplier. I was seeing if the cheaper Beet Active product was as good as Beet-It Sports shots but got diverted into the delights of CHERRY. I do specifically remember having a Cherry Active before bed on Race Nights for over a year and sometimes getting a good night of sleep as a result, despite my excitement about the imminent race. I still have one left somewhere, though it’s probably out-of-date. It tastes significantly nicer than beetroot juice!
The Cherry Juice (above) is also supposed to reduce DOMS. I have to say I don’t remember it doing that. I remember my more serious training years as perennially aching. I probably don’t train as hard now, although I do train for longer so maybe that’s why I don’t ache as much. But, more realistically, it’s down to CURRANZ (black currants) which I’m pretty sure DOES decrease DOMS as well as providing a possible performance benefit (see link, below, for that science). Actually my legs aching less also coincided with me giving up being vegetarian and returning to the bacon…maybe lack of protein was the cause all along 🙂
Perhaps reducing DOMS and INCREASING RECOVERY is also about simply getting a good night’s sleep? I covered a list of things that I’ve done to help sleep in my recent QuietOn Sleep Review and that product definitely HELPED because of its noise-cancelling abilities (anti-snoring!) but it was not the panacea for 8 hours of QUALITY SLEEP EVERY NIGHT.
Of course, even when you try all these things you are never quite sure if you have slept more or had more DEEP, physically restorative sleep. A good dose of tech can help there.
- QS EMFIT is a good monitoring tool that also links up to Training Peaks. It’s totally NON-invasive too.
- WHOOP is good if you don’t mind wearing a wrist band (I don’t). It also has a good stab at activity and recovery.
- Your Polar or Suunto or Garmin or your favourite Smartwatch can also have a good stab at overnight sleep metrics. I don’t like wearing a watch at night as a rule but most of the RECENT, well-known watch tech can read resting HR/HRV reasonably well
- The Oura Ring, of course, is a good one too. The finger IS a good place to sense HR/HRV at resting/overnight levels and even I don’t object to wearing a ring at night. It will never give you sport-level accuracy for HR though but it’s sleep metrics and recovery plus meditation pieces are good.
- Don’t be a vegetarian, eat animal protein and pretend you aren’t destroying the planet. Cycle more to compensate.
- Sleep more and better by improving your sleep hygiene. A routine coupled with a better mattress and darker, calmer environment should help.
- If you like, use tech to see the before and after effect of the changes to your regime (hint: tech is always good for a Christmas present)