We all want a good nights sleep and know how important it is for our health, but does protein help or hinder quality of sleep?
Poor quality sleep can really affect your health with an increase in risk factors for depression, reduced concentration, memory issues, muscular aches, weight gain and more.
With many of us focusing on protein to help keep us working out and snacking right, there are a few things to know about how protein works with your body’s abilities to drift off to a good night’s sleep. Let’s take a look…
Proteins that help with sleep
Heard of the amino acid tryptophan? This is the one amino acid found in protein touted for it’s abilities to improve sleep. Tryptophan is converted by our body into the 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) molecule.This molecule is then used to make serotonin which affects sleep, mood and cognition and melatonin, which impacts your sleep-wake cycle.
Studies have shown that increasing tryptophan in the diet can improve sleep by increasing melatonin. So what foods have tryptophan or melatonin?
It’s the proteins we eat that are the building blocks of tryptophan which is why a glass of warm milk has often been touted at bedtime. Other foods high in tryptophan, include eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, bananas, red meat, poultry, fish, oats, beans, and lentils.
How egg protein helps with sleep
“Eggs, along with fish and nuts, are one of the highest dietary sources of melatonin which has been shown to help people get to sleep and to stay asleep,”Dietitian Sharon Natoli explains.
“The effect of eggs on sleep quality is most useful for those who have trouble sleeping, rather than causing drowsiness. If a person’s nutritional status is poor or their levels of melatonin are low, eating eggs may help them to improve their sleep quality by assisting to improve both of these areas.”
Eggs are a great source of protein and nutrition, and make the perfect base for protein bars and protein shakes, with amino acids including tryptophan, easily absorbed and used by the body.
Pair that protein base with melatonin-containing nuts like almonds, and you have a protein snack that supports your work, rest and play. (no, not that bar! Try this one)
Can protein actually be the cause of poor sleep?
Protein is great during the day but may cause issues at night if consumed too close to bed. High protein foods can take a long time to digest which is an issue at night when your digestion slows down by up to 50 per cent.
While we’re catching up on amino acids, here’s another one to know about – tyrosine, and this is released from protein into your bloodstream when digesting. It travels to the brain where it increases neurotransmitters to boost your energy levels. Not so great at bedtime!
That high protein snack bar or smoothie right before bed may interfere with your sleep. If you think that may be happening, switch to a lighter snack before bed that is easier to digest and limits the tyrosine release.
Other great tips for quality sleep
- Limit the caffeine and alcohol before bed as both interfere with sleep quality
- Avoid going to bed on a full heavy stomach. Give your body 3 hours to digest before trying to sleep
- Eat breakfast (have some googy eggs) and eat at regular times during the day
- Limit technology use an hour before bed. Put the computer and phone away.
- Swap processed foods for wholefoods – that includes your snacks such as protein bars
- Workout or exercise regularly and see your sleep improve
Check out Googys Real Food Protein Bars powered by egg whites here.