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Episode 13: What We Eat Affects How We Sleep

Show notes

Can changing up your diet give you better sleep? What foods or food habits could we maybe do without? And most importantly, what should we all be eating more of to make sure we’re getting the best rest possible? To explore this link between nutrition and sleep, we’ve invited Ellie Krieger, registered dietitian nutritionist, author and a prominent TV show host and executive producer. With shows like Ellie’s Real Good Food, the Food Network hit Healthy Appetite, and her own ongoing podcast, One Real Good Thing, Ellie is an expert at cutting through dietary trends, offering accessible tools for a satisfying lifestyle.

Episode-related links

Here’s What You Should Know About Nutrition and Sleep
The Foods That Help You Sleep At Night
New Study Shows How Certain Changes to Your Diet Could Help You Go to Bed (and Wake Up) Earlier


Dr. Shelby Harris: How are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? I’m Dr. Shelby Harris, a licensed clinical psychologist and Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis, where we dive deep into all things sleep. If you like Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby, take a second right now to like this video on YouTube or give us a five star rating through Spotify or Apple podcasts. I know it seems simple, but it really does help us reach a lot more people and it helps all these people get the rest that they deserve. 

And if you’re tired of hitting that snooze button, hit the subscribe button instead. A new episode of science-backed sleep tips is available every other Wednesday. 

Can changing up your diet give you better sleep? What foods or food habits could we maybe do without? And most importantly, what should we all be eating more of to make sure we’re getting the best rest possible? 

To explore this link between nutrition and sleep, we’ve invited Ellie Krieger, registered dietitian nutritionist, author and a prominent TV show host and executive producer. With shows like Ellie’s Real Good Food, the Food Network hit Healthy Appetite, and her own ongoing podcast, One Real Good Thing, Ellie is an expert at cutting through dietary trends, offering accessible tools for a satisfying lifestyle. With seven bestselling cookbooks and accolades like the James Beard Foundation Award- no joke- she’s also famous for blending healthy approaches with delicious food. Ellie, I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby

Ellie Krieger: Thank you, Dr. Shelby. It is great to be here. Love talking with you and love all the work you do. 

DS: Same. Oh my gosh, same. So let’s begin with an overview of nutrition and sleep, the ways that they’re really connected. Can you maybe explain to our listeners how dietary choices impact our sleep quality?

EK: You know, I think pulling back even a little bit further, I think we tend to think of, oh, this is a sleep issue or this is a nutrition issue, but it’s all so incredibly interconnected. Our bodies, I mean, this is like a network of things that have effects on each other. So the way we sleep affects our eating habits. And the way we eat affects the way we sleep. And so it really is this holistic kind of way of looking at it that I think is really, really important. 

So, yes, you’re a sleep expert. I’m, you know, an expert in food. But really, this is why we work together. Because the body relies on all of these systems to work together, as you know.

So I would like to just kind of like set that out there, right? Right away, because it really, it’s so incredibly interconnected and also interconnected with your activity levels and other things. So it’s this kind of whole body wellness that we’re really going for and it works together. So it’s amazing how much it all supports each other.

But I think in, in essence, the way you sleep actually affects the way you eat because if you don’t get enough sleep, your hunger hormones are increased. And then you wind up feeling not satisfied and just needing more food. Right? Because these hormones are kicking in. 

DS: Yeah. 

EK: And then also the way you eat absolutely affects the way you sleep. And the cool thing is, for me though, is that it really ties together with basic good eating habits. You don’t have to do anything like really massively magical or totally different if you’re needing to deal with some sleep issues than you would if you were eating for heart health or you were eating for blood sugar or if you were eating to maintain your weight in a healthy place.

So it’s kind of beautiful to me as a culinary nutritionist, that that’s how it works. There’s not a special diet for everything, right? You need to eat a balanced diet, eat in a balanced way.

DS: So what does that look like? 

EK: So, and, and the thing is about that is that that, there’s many ways to do it. There’s not one diet that is automatically balanced, right? So there’s different ways to get to that place of balance based on your preferences and your cultural background and what you like to eat. So, so there’s different ways to get there. But, essentially, the basics are eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

So, lots of polyphenols, lots of these antioxidants and polyphenols come from fruits and vegetables that are delicious and colorful. There’s a million and one reasons to eat those. They seem to be associated with better sleep in general. People who have higher amounts of fruits and vegetables and these antioxidant rich foods in their life tend to sleep better. Getting adequate protein and it doesn’t mean you have to be on a high protein diet. So like you don’t have to suddenly go there. You can be a vegan and get adequate protein. But making sure that you get adequate protein, and I think if you decide to be vegan, there are some things to watch out for which I can tell you talk about, but making sure you get adequate, adequate protein because many of the protein foods, protein rich foods contain the nutrients that tend to be linked with better sleep or that if we’re deficient in them, our sleep will suffer.

So for example, zinc, B vitamins, minerals like magnesium and zinc, zinc is also a mineral. These nutrients are coming generally from protein rich foods. So, enough protein, enough antioxidants, and also keeping your carbs lower glycemic, so not a lot of sugars or highly processed carbs, but rather more low glycemic, slow release, nutrient rich carbohydrate foods like whole grains and so on. So it’s really, honestly, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins. 

DS: It’s not sexy, right? It’s just pretty basic, right? 

EK: I think it’s pretty sexy, actually, because you will look really good and feel really sexy when you eat like this. So yeah, you’re right. It’s basic, and it sounds basic. But it’s true, and it does lead to sexiness, I must say. 

DS: There you go. And I think we sometimes, like you were saying, I think we overcomplicate it sometimes and segment things out. Like this is the sleep wellness stuff. This is the diet, nutrition, exercise.

When if we think about it, just if you eat a healthy diet, a balanced diet, like you’re talking about, that helps with a healthier body, which a healthier body helps with better sleep overall and vice versa and all that, because I know when I don’t sleep well, all I want is chocolate chip cookies, nonstop. 

EK: Yeah. And it’s sort of magical. It really is. 

DS: Yeah. 

EK: And the other element here that’s really important besides the quality of the foods you’re eating is the eating pattern. And I think it’s fascinating the way eating, as much as, the key is here, as much as possible to finding a pattern that works for you. So there’s no one magical pattern I would say, except just not eating late at night.

You don’t want to necessarily go to bed on a full stomach. You don’t want your body to be doing the digestive work. You can have a little snack, but not to eat a big meal in less than two hours before you’re going to go to bed. And that’s for so many reasons. I mean, we’ve all been there where we just happened to have eaten a huge meal and we go to bed and we’re just like waking- we could barely fall asleep and we’re waking up in between when we normally aren’t and we’re uncomfortable and we might have heartburn and all of that stuff. That’s avoidable by just eating your main, you know, your dinner at least two hours before you go to bed. 

Okay. So besides that, pick a pattern that works for you. It could be three meals and two snacks. It could be two meals and three snacks. It could be six small meals, whatever it is that works for you. Our bodies really love that consistency.

DS: Yeah. 

EK: Not only, I’m sure you discuss this, I know you discuss this with your sleep hygiene practices, to have that kind of consistency. Having that kind of consistency with food and food patterns is incredibly effective. It helps regulate our metabolic systems. Our bodies love this circadian rhythm and a constant beat, right? So it, it helps manage lipid levels, for example, like blood lipid levels are more in healthier zones when we just eat consistently.

And so it helps us also with meal planning and things like that. But it seems to do remarkable things for our wellbeing in general to be consistent and, and realistically in life, you know, every day is maybe going to have some, some curve balls thrown at you. So not being unrealistically rigid about it or expecting every single day to be the same, but having a basic pattern that is your meal pattern is going to help your sleep. 

DS: So there’s no one right way to do it, it sounds like, with the amount. Because I feel like sometimes people get very caught in these absolutes. Like, I know I’ve been told many times, you should have three big meals a day and two small snacks. Or now there’s the whole intermittent fasting thing, which works for some people and doesn’t work for others.

I personally respond better to, because I also get migraines a lot, so to have smaller, smaller meals throughout the day and to make sure I’m having a snack about an hour before bed and something in the morning is useful for me for migraine management. So you don’t really ascribe to like one specific way to do it. It sounds like it’s, It’s what works for the individual person. 

EK: And the reason why I don’t subscribe to one way of doing it, because there’s really no evidence that shows there’s one way to do it. 

DS: Oh. 

EK: Right? So people, I mean, and so different things, in fact, work for different people. And it depends on so many different factors, including not only, you know, what may be right on paper, but what is your day like?

Maybe you work a night shift. Maybe you work two shifts. Maybe you have whatever it is that you have going on. And then listening to your body in terms of yes, don’t go to bed full, but a lot of people, for example, pick a cutoff time for intermittent fasting. If that works for you, great. There’s evidence showing that there’s benefits to that.

I often can’t fall asleep because I’m too hungry in the evening and there’s no way. I will lose sleep just thinking about food at midnight or one o’clock in the morning. So I have a snack before bed because I tend to eat dinner kind of early. I have a snack before bed and I feel great and I sleep great.

And so I think it is true. It is. Suss out what works for you. 

DS: Yeah. So speaking of like the snack, I’m curious, you know, I talk about this sometimes on social media and in various interviews, but I’m curious what foods you would recommend to not necessarily be that thing that solves everyone’s sleep problem because it was as simple as like, I always say this all the time, as simple as tart cherry juice, everyone would be drinking tart cherry juice. But what would be like a snack that would be ideal for you? 

EK: Right. So I, I have a snack every single night. I usually, well, it will be either some yogurt. I like some, I love plain yogurt. Full fat, plain yogurt with just some blueberries. I love that. So I’ll just have a little bowl of that perhaps maybe with a little granola on top. Maybe not. 

I often eat a little bowl of popcorn, just like lightly salted popcorn. And that’s a whole grain and it kind of fills me up and gives me, takes the edge off of any kind of hunger. And that kind of carbohydrate meal, that carbohydrate snack helps increase tryptophan. So popcorn itself isn’t rich in tryptophan, but what it does is it opens up your brain barrier.

It sort of allows the tryptophan to come into your brain and create serotonin. So a higher carb evening snack is generally helpful. 

DS: And pairing it with a protein too, it sounds like, with the Greek yogurt is really useful for a lot of people. 

EK: Yeah. I wouldn’t normally have them together, but yeah, the, having- 

DS: Oh, okay. 

EK: Just because I don’t need that much, but there’s no reason not to have it together. But yeah, absolutely. Something like golden milk actually has been shown — so golden milk is just milk. And so you were mentioning tryptophan, so, there are a few you know, brain chemicals. Tryptophan is an amino acid which triggers the serotonin, which helps you calm down. 

DS: Mm hmm. 

EK: So there are foods that are rich in tryptophan, but generally foods that are rich in tryptophan are high protein foods. But it’s actually higher carb foods that allow the tryptophan to get in through your brain and create the serotonin. 

DS: Ah. 

EK: So it’s, it’s sort of complicated, but like, it’s sort of, people think turkey makes you tired, right? I’ve, I wrote a whole post on my Substack newsletter but turkey actually isn’t the thing that makes you tired.

Turkey has tryptophan, but it also has other amino acids, lots of other amino acids. And so, they all compete for the same travel partners, you know, there’s a technical word for it. 

DS: Oh, I like that. Yeah. To get them across… 

EK: …the blood brain barrier. So, if they’re all competing, then not that much tryptophan is going to get through. But if you eat something, if you have tryptophan in your system, and you eat high carbs, you’re not going to have a lot of other amino acids trying to get through. 

DS: Ah. So, like Thanksgiving, it’s not the turkey, it’s the mashed potatoes that help the turkey get to where it needs to go. 

EK: Yeah, so it’s all the carbohydrates that make you sleepy but it’s also the large meal. So a big meal makes you sleepy, a high fat meal makes you sleepy. It’s basically everything else except the turkey that’s making you sleepy. It’s the, it’s the stressful drive over and then, and that kind of fight or flight anxiousness that suddenly now takes a backseat to the rest and digest vibes that you get. So it’s all of that. 

DS: Okay. 

EK: And not the Turkey . 

DS: That’s so funny. So you were mentioning earlier some vitamins and minerals that can really impact, be impact- or impact sleep or if we’re not getting enough, can definitely impact our sleep. The things that I hear all the time about are magnesium. especially.

And then the other big one, and because I have restless leg syndrome myself, is iron. So I’ve had to take iron supplements. So are there, do you have any favorite ways to really think about- because everyone’s going to supplements for everything nowadays. Like, do you think that people just aren’t eating enough of these foods? And are there simple ways that people could get more of it in their diet? 

EK: Yes, absolutely. And actually, this is another article that I wrote for my Substack newsletter about what to get more of if you’re not, if you’re eating less meat. So a lot of people are eating less meat and meat is one of the best sources.

You know, beef, red meat is really one of the best sources of these minerals, of iron, of magnesium, of zinc. And pork, for example, has a ton of B vitamins. So I tend to think about real food, using real food, I’m not against supplements, but I think we, it will never take the place of real food, supplements. So that I see that really as more of an insurance policy and sometimes they’re very much warranted, but I think in terms of real food, that’s kind of my approach.

And if you’re eating less meat, it’s critical, and if you’re vegan, it’s critical that you eat beans, nuts and seeds. So well, first of all, if you’re eating less meat and you’re not vegan, fish is wonderful. Fish also has all these wonderful nutrients. Fish is rich in zinc. It’s rich in iron and it’s also rich in tryptophan, melatonin and magnesium. So it really, seafood is a great option. So the more seafood you can get into your life, great. I think what happens is a lot of times when people are cutting back on red meat, they just wind up cutting it out. And they eat maybe more dairy products and dairy doesn’t have those minerals.

Dairy has calcium and dairy has protein. But what I’ve seen a lot when people are starting to become vegetarian is that they wind up eating a lot more dairy and they’re not getting enough beans, nuts, and seeds. So, and, and seafood if you’re pescatarian. But beans, nuts, and seeds are going to be really something you need to amp up if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan.

That is what gives you the magnesium, the zinc, the iron. as well as the protein. So I think we often think just in terms of protein, am I getting enough? And you can get enough protein from dairy products, but you’re not getting those critical minerals. 

DS: And that’s interesting. I hadn’t really thought about it that way because I know there was a point in time where I was really focused on trying to get a certain amount of protein in.

And I was eating more like flank steak and eating a good amount of chicken and chicken thighs, especially, and I was like, my cholesterol started to go up a bit. So I started to try and get the protein just from dairy. But then I noticed that my restless legs was getting worse because I probably wasn’t getting all those minerals and vitamins from the meat that I was. So that’s a great tip about the fish. I didn’t really think to do that. So. 

EK: Right. So fish, beans, nuts, and seeds, really great foods to include. High protein, good quality carbs in the beans. And then all those great minerals, there’s the zinc, there’s a magnesium, there’s the iron. And there’s tons of polyphenols.

Eggs? What about- 

DS: Yes, eggs, 

EK: eggs too. And there’s tons of polyphenols and antioxidants in those plant foods, the nuts and the beans and the seeds. 

DS: Okay. So when you’re talking about nuts, like, could you just like slather on the peanut butter at night? Or do we need to- 

EK: Bring it. Any nut. Any – I’m nuts for nuts. 

DS: Okay. 

EK: Yeah. Walnuts, cashews, you know, name it. Just, any nut. 

DS: Okay. 

EK: And snacking on them, nut butters. 

DS: Do we need to, do we need to, nut butters though, like watch the sugar, cause you were talking about that. Like, is all, are all nut butters okay, but like if we do the sweetened peanut butter or not so much?

EK: I mean, it’s sweetened so modestly. I personally choose just peanuts and salt kind of peanut butter.

DS: Okay. 

EK: That’s my personal preference, but it’s not going to make or break you if you have a little bit of, if you buy, you know, the regular brand and you have a tiny bit of sugar in there it’s not going to make or break the situation. I think it’s more important that you’re eating the peanut butter to put that in perspective. But if you, if you like the natural one, that’s better, probably. 

DS: Okay. Yeah, I like the natural, but I know that my husband loves the sweetened kind, but it doesn’t sound like, it doesn’t sound like it has to be vilified. 

EK: Exactly. 

DS: And then what are things that maybe we should avoid? Like I know for me, if I have pizza, even within two to three hours of going to bed, I still will wake up with horrible heartburn. So are there like certain types of foods that we should really think about avoiding, whether it’s, you know, we always talk about alcohol and caffeine to try and avoid that, but are there things that you want to think about that might be a little too problematic for people? 

EK: Yes, so here it’s very individual and I would say really listen to your body. So this is another reason to tap in and listen to what’s happening. And , you know, maybe if you do find that you have heartburn now and then maybe start to keep a little food journal and try to pinpoint what it is. But acidic foods, so like tomato sauce, can sometimes really trigger, you know, reflux in people.

So you might want to have your slice of pizza that you’re craving, have that for lunch instead of dinner, for example. But there’s no hard and fast rule. It certainly doesn’t bother me to have a slice of pizza. So I’m not going to say, you know, don’t have one. But yeah, foods that typically tend to exacerbate reflux are spicy foods.

So a lot of spice and acidic foods like tomato sauces and things. So you might, if you’re affected by that, you might want to, you know, save that kind of stuff for lunch. and have a more mellow dinner. 

But I was starting to tell you about the, the golden milk. 

DS: Oh yeah, 

EK: So golden milk, it’s been used as kind of like a relaxer in India, I guess historically and traditionally. And what it is, is warm milk with turmeric in it. And the warm milk has melatonin, it has tryptophan, and it’s, you know, it’s going to fill your belly a little, just nicely. And then the turmeric is incredibly rich in, that’s the, you know, it gives the milk the beautiful golden color. And that’s going to give you a lot of polyphenols.

And there’s some connection there potentially with curcumin, which is the active component of turmeric, with potentially helping with sleep. The research isn’t totally solid on that, but it has the tradition. It’s delicious and, and it’s beautiful and it’s just a nice thing to kind of curl up with in the evening. So that’s kind of a nice one too. 

DS: And does it matter what kind of milk you’re using? 

EK: Well, I mean, dairy milk is going to have the melatonin and the tryptophan, so. But if you can, but if you enjoy that kind of thing, you can totally just have any kind of milk that you enjoy and warm that up with some turmeric and maybe a little bit of honey.

DS: That sounds delicious. And how much are we talking about? Because that’s the other thing we have to think about are like liquids. So some people are drinking massive classes of water. So how much do you think, like I usually say eight ounces, is that like a totally appropriate portion for that? 

EK: I would say like a small mug , you know, and then just nurse it a little. So yeah, absolutely. And then the other thing I think people don’t realize when we say avoid caffeine, I think people don’t realize how long caffeine lasts in your system. It could take up to 10 hours or more than 10 hours, 10 to 12 hours for all of the caffeine to be processed, so, through your system, it takes, I guess about the half life of it is like six hours or something.

 But 10 hours it could take. So really think about that. If you’re having trouble sleeping and caffeine isn’t, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, which I think most people are, but don’t even realize. You know, think about that 10 hour window of not having caffeine and please remember that green tea, so those matcha lattes, green tea has caffeine. So a lot of people don’t realize that either. Green tea, white tea. All have caffeine. 

DS: Are there any hidden sources of caffeine that you, you think in certain foods that people are eating. 

EK: Well, energy drinks have caffeine, right? I mean, maybe that’s obvious to people, but maybe not, right? And some bars. I think sometimes they, these energy bars, some of them are supplemented with kind of stimulants like that. So just, just read the labels. If it says energy on it, then you might want to just read the label and make sure. 

DS: So, and, and diet sounds like diet doesn’t necessarily mean caffeine free either, right?

EK: Oh, totally. 

DS: So like diet sodas and things. Yeah. A lot of people assume. 

EK: Yeah, totally, totally. 

DS: What do you think people might misunderstand or forget to take into account when it comes to nutrition and sleep? Like are there things that you think that are big misnomers or misunderstandings nowadays? 

EK: I do think that people don’t realize how much caffeine affects them, and actually, I think the big thing is alcohol. They think it makes them, I’m going to drink, I’m going to have a few drinks so I can fall asleep. But it actually, as I’m sure you’ve said on this show before, that it actually disrupts your sleep cycle. So you might fall asleep, but you’re just not going to sleep well. 

DS: Yeah. So do you think, are there any trends that you’ve been seeing in nutrition that you think a lot of people are kind of grabbing onto that might be worse? And like you were talking about it’s not just about sleep, right? It’s about whole body health, things like that, because that does impact how you sleep at night.

So are you seeing any trends in nutrition that might be either wonderful trends or dangerous that you’re seeing? I mean, social media is like rife with both things right now. 

EK: I mean, there’s so much out there that’s so absurd. 

DS: Yeah. 

EK: And I think what makes, what I think is, is a problem is if you’re on a keto diet and you’re not eating fruit. I think a lot of these diet people are so afraid of sugar. They’re afraid of eating an apple because of the sugar and I think this is a huge problem in our society. And all of the data I mean, it’s profound how much data shows that eating whole fruit is, makes you healthier in every way.

And I think this, it’s incredible to me how whole fruit, cherries, grapes, I mean, these are the foods with melatonin. These are the foods with polyphenols that are connected with good sleep. These are the foods with antioxidants. All of this is linked to better sleep and to better health in, in brain health, in heart health, I mean, skin health, you name it.

And people are avoiding whole fruit because they’re afraid of the sugar. I think this is a massive problem in our society. So don’t avoid fruit because of the sugar. 

If you need, I have personally high blood sugar. I, I don’t eat fruit by itself. I’ll balance it with some nuts, or some yogurt. So typically I don’t eat it by itself or I’ll eat it for dessert after a meal so that if my, if your blood sugar is sensitive like mine is then that’s a way of tempering it, so, and it has so much fiber in it that it’s not really like a problem. But it’s better to, if you need to combine it with other things, other healthful foods. 

So one trend I see that I don’t like that I think is very damaging is not eating fruit. The other trend is, yeah, I mean, I think, I think the intermittent fasting, I’ve seen a lot of positive research on it. I think it can work, but I think people don’t do it in a way that is necessarily positive. 

And I actually wrote about this for the Washington Post. What I’m seeing a lot is people not eating all day and they eat a gigantic dinner and then they eat in the evening. And this is not good for us. It’s best for our bodies in terms of our circadian rhythms, in terms of when we need the energy, when we- our brains need the fuel and we perform better if we have fuel to our brain. That should start, if you’re going to have this intermittent fasting window, it should start in the morning. It should start early when your brain needs the fuel, and it should end early. And I’m not seeing that happening. I’m seeing more people skipping breakfast, skipping lunch, about to pass out, and then they have a big dinner.

DS: Why are they doing it? Is it mostly because of calorie restriction, generally? 

EK: I think people are doing intermittent fasting, yeah, to lose weight, for calorie restriction. So I’m not a big fan of it. 

DS: Yeah. 

EK: I’m a, I’m a fan of it in that I think people, we need to stop eating at some point. Our bodies like to stop eating. And most of us don’t. We’re just like eating as a population. Americans are like eating 24 seven, honestly. And I think it’s a good idea to, to stop. And our bodies seem to like having a rest from eating. And that rest can be our sleep time, right? And the buffer before and after our sleep time. It doesn’t have to be, we can do intermittent fasting with like a 12 hour window.

And then we have the day to eat and the night to rest. So something like that I think is a little more realistic for most people, and- 

DS: Mm hmm. 

EK: It doesn’t have to be so extreme where we have this like six hour window, but I think most people when they do give themselves a smaller window, they’re pushing it to later because socially that’s kind of how we’re living. We meet people for dinner or whatever. I think that’s problematic on a lot of levels. 

DS: What about in the morning? We’ve been focusing on things for sleep at night, and I just, it just occurred to me, like, what about breakfasts? Like, I always have the same breakfast. I, it’s funny, I never realized that I do it. I have, at night I have yogurt, and then I still have Greek yogurt in the morning a lot of times for breakfast. But a lot of people are grabbing, like, that croissant, or they’re having a bagel, and they’re, or just having coffee. Like, do you think that there are good energizing kind of breakfasts that would help throughout the morning, especially if you’ve had a rough night of sleep because we often will grab that kind of unhealthy thing?

EK: Totally. Having a balanced breakfast with, ideally, a high quality carbohydrate, like a whole grain. 

DS: Okay. 

EK: Fruit is, it’s a great time to eat fruit because people are in the mood for that kind of in the morning. A little bit of sweetness. And some kind of protein. Definitely having some kind of protein in the morning.

Maybe some cottage cheese. Maybe it’s a smoothie that has nut butter and milk or yogurt in it with fruit. And then I put a little bit of just a little bit of oatmeal in my- like a, regular uncooked oatmeal and blend that up in there and then I have the whole grain and it kind of gives you a little more fiber and it lasts longer, kind of, in your system.

So whole grain, I would say just think about breakfast as a balanced meal, just like you would think of lunch or dinner. Protein, some type of colorful fruit or vegetable, and , and a high quality carbohydrate. 

DS: And to be really thoughtful about it, especially like we were just saying, if you’ve had a rough night of sleep because you were saying that you don’t always reach for the healthier things and your hunger signals are off, so that might be a good way to kind of start the day.

And then hydrating with, I’m assuming, water. Are there any other things that people- that you favor for someone who’s like, I don’t like drinking water throughout the day? 

EK: Oh, gosh. I mean, it’s fun to just like put, I like to put, well, when it’s in season, anything really. Just like, put some cut fruit in water and kind of like have that infused water is delicious, or just even a squeeze of lemon or, and if you like bubbly water, like sometimes that. People, you know, are more into having bubbly water. And there’s so many nice sparkling waters now that have like a little essence of raspberry or whatever without having any calories. So that hydrates you just as well. Or decaffeinated tea. I love just like a herbal tea. 

Well, I have my coffee in the morning, no doubt. And by the way, most people don’t realize, even caffeinated beverages count toward hydration.

So the research shows that if we’re accustomed to a certain amount of caffeine, our body adapts. So we don’t excrete. If you just suddenly, if you never drink coffee and you suddenly drink a cup of coffee, your body’s going to excrete a lot of water from that, but it will rebound actually within a 24 hour period.

 So that, but if you’re accustomed to drinking coffee, it’s really actually counted toward your hydration, toward your drinks. 

DS: That’s really good to know. I never knew that. So I can count that cup of coffee I’m having in the morning. 

EK: That’s why our, our grandparents, you know, you’d be like, you never drink water. All you drink is coffee or tea all day. Like how do you, how are you alive? How do you-? 

DS: Right? That’s so true. And I think people just think about it just has to be that plain water, but it really, you can, it can be anything really. 

EK: Except alcohol. Alcohol does dehydrate you. So any, so caffeine counts, again, you want to stop drinking caffeine, I think 10 hours before you go to bed. So, but, but you can count that morning cup of coffee towards your hydration. 

DS: And then one other thing when it comes to the hydration is that a lot of people I work with will drink a lot at night because they haven’t been drinking enough during the day. Do you have any suggestions that you’ve worked with people over the years to help them remember to hydrate during the day? Is there any tip or trick that might help? 

EK: I mean, people do these things where they have their bottle of water and then they mark how much they should drink. But honestly, just be aware of your thirst because our thirst is a remarkably good indicator of our hydration status. And so, so if you’re feeling a little bit parched, like I am right now and I’m about to take a drink, cheers. If you’re feeling a little thirsty, drink and always just have a drink at your fingertips so you don’t have to get up for it. I mean, the more default kind of stuff we have, we tend to do better if it’s the default that we don’t have to go too far for it. 

DS: So keep it nearby as you have that nice glass of water. Two last questions. So one is, do you have any like strategies or even recipes, anything at all that you never get asked about that you kind of want to share with our listeners here? I’m sure you’ve shared lots of- I know you’ve shared lots over the years- but is there any kind of recipe that you think might be a good like evening dinner kind of recipe that might be good or anything in particular? 

EK: Oh my gosh, how could I even begin? I have, I have literally hundreds of recipes in my archive.

DS: I know. 

EK: I mean, I guess I’m encouraging people to explore seafood more. You know, 80 to 90 percent of Americans don’t get two servings of fish a week. It’s like shocking to me because there are some days where I ate fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Like I’ll have smoked salmon in the morning and I’ll have a tuna salad in the afternoon and I’ll have a nice piece of halibut in the evening.

I’m like, I can’t believe people don’t eat fish. So I feel like- 

DS: Yeah. 

EK: I guess I would say, you know, I just did this beautiful oh no, it’s not on my website yet. Sorry. 

DS: All good. 

EK: No, I have a whole selection of seafood recipes on my website. And then also, again, I’m going to push beans because it is literally one of the best foods you could possibly eat and it’s going to give you those, those minerals.

And a lot of people are concerned about, oh, I don’t digest them well. Part of the reason is because if you have a lot of beans, when you don’t frequently have them, that’s an issue. So if you think- 

DS: You’ve got to get used to it. 

EK: You gotta get used to it. So start with a little half a cup and really include beans in your life. Daily if you can, or as close to daily as you can. And a small amount. And then your body really acclimates and the fiber is amazing, the minerals. So I have like great bean chilies and also it doesn’t have to be an and or. So I love to mix meat and beans. So I have like sloppy joes that I make with beans and ground beef.

DS: That sounds delicious. 

EK: So you’re really healthifying the whole thing by amping up the fiber with the beans, but you’re still including the meat, which also has a lot of benefits to it. So, so that kind of stuff. How about, now I’m going to crave sloppy joes. 

DS: And canned is totally fine. Canned beans are not a problem? 

EK: Canned beans are great.

DS: Okay.

EK: I have like 10 kinds of canned beans in my cupboard right now, like chickpeas and white beans and pinto beans and black beans and black eyed peas and even canned lentils. 

DS: Oh, interesting. Okay. So, so a lot of variety there. Yeah. 

EK: And it makes it fun. 

DS: Yeah. That’s the key. I think the thing is we just make it too boring sometimes that if you make it interesting you’re going to want to eat those things and then it might actually lead to a healthier diet overall.

EK: That’s my M. O. 

DS: Which is, I know. Ellie, we end every episode with a segment called Something to Sleep On. One last point you’d like to share with anyone looking to change their sleep and diet habits. So ,when it comes to nutrition and sleep, do you have one final thought for our listeners? Something to sleep on?

EK: I’m going to combine it into two things. Get into a regular eating pattern where you’re eating your dinner on the earlier side. And eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. 

DS: Regularity and not being restrictive. I think that’s a good way to live our lives in general. 

Oh, Ellie, thank you so much for being here. This is something that definitely impacts all of us and it’s so relevant and I absolutely love digging into this topic with you. Thank you again. 

EK: Thank you for having me. 

DS: Thanks for listening to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby, a Sleepopolis original podcast. Remember, if you’re tired of hitting the snooze button, make sure to hit that subscribe button right now on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening.

And for even more sleep tips, visit sleepopolis.com and my Instagram page @sleeptalkshelby. Until next time, sleep well.