In the last post, we talked about setting a bedtime routine to get better sleep. This week we are going to talk about your setting up a daytime routine to support it. We’ll start with the morning.
Just like you’ve heard the saying you need 8-9 hours of sleep — I’m sure you’ve also heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.
Another old adage that we think is for someone else because, well…”my mornings are too crazy to squeeze in breakfast! Plus, I’m trying to lose weight.”
And if you are trying to savor every minute of sleep (because maybe you just fell asleep at 4:30), getting up a little bit earlier may sound ludicrous and counterproductive.
But here’s the deal.
Breakfast sets the tone for your day simply by its affect on your cortisol and blood sugar levels. Here’s how…
Your sleeping and waking cycle is controlled by a not-so-little hormone called cortisol. And cortisol has to be in a certain range to get you up in the morning and in a lower range to make you sleep at night. Now, cortisol does a lot more than regulate your sleep cycle.
Cortisol levels change throughout the day. Cortisol rises to its highest levels in the morning and then trends down like a rollercoaster to its lowest levels at night. It is very sensitive to your eating patterns, your stress levels and your activity throughout the day. But it has to stay on the rollercoaster for you to feel good. If it gets too high, you feel wired and if it gets too low, you’ll need a nap…fast!
Cortisol manages your energy by keeping your blood sugar (glucose levels) in check. When your blood sugar drops too low (not eating frequently enough), the adrenals pump out more cortisol. Cortisol then produces glucose to bring your blood sugar back in range.
In the morning, you are coming off a nightly fast – from the 8+ hours since your last meal. You need to eat something so that your blood sugar doesn’t dip too low and your adrenals don’t pump out cortisol. The extra cortisol in the morning leaves your overall cortisol levels higher than they should be. These higher cortisol levels will carry through throughout the day and into the night. Add to this other factors that can raise cortisol – like caffeine, skimping on another meal, and stress — from traffic, work, the kids, you name it — and you could end up with cortisol levels that are too high at night to allow you to fall asleep.
Remember cortisol needs to dip down to a certain range in order for you to feel sleepy.
Eating breakfast, not only prevents your adrenals from pumping out extra cortisol but also helps bring your cortisol levels down from the morning peak. It’s your first chance to give your adrenals a little love by saying ‘don’t worry, I’ve got the blood sugar thing covered’.
Eating breakfast also has a sort of domino affect too. Eating breakfast will help keep your blood sugar balanced and help you keep a healthy eating pattern during the day as well. You may find that you crave caffeine and sweets less. And if your blood sugar is balanced, you’ll also be better equipped to handle whatever stressor comes your way. And all that helps to keep cortisol in check.
I know mornings can be crazy! The thought of preparing and eating breakfast can seem overwhelming. The trick is to have it prepared the night before.
Here are my top 3 recommendations for an easy, stress-free breakfast:
- Fritatta – prepared a day or two earlier with leftover vegetables or freshly sautéed veggies. You can stick 1-2 days worth in the fridge and any remainder in the freezer. I recommend making a big batch. If you make enough to store in freezer, store it in the amounts you would need for one breakfast. Like, one or two squares or triangles. Then all you need to do is take out one package for one breakfast and stick it in the fridge. Overnight should be enough time to thaw it out. No need to reheat.
- Smoothie – again this can be prepared the night before. For optimal nutrients, preparing in the morning is better but preparing the night before is a nice compromise to not eating at all. The smoothie should include adequate protein and fat. Click here for my favorite breakfast smoothie.
- Leftovers – I know this may put some of you off but this is the absolute easiest to prepare. Make your leftovers into a salad and top it off with olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar to get your digestive juices flowing.
(I know there is a lot written about the benefits of intermittent fasting, which may include skipping breakfast. But I don’t recommend that if you are having any sort of hormone imbalance, especially sleep issues.)
So, give breakfast a try. I’m sure you’ll find over time, you have more energy during the day and you’ll be ready for sleep at the right time at night.
Need a little more guidance? Join my 5-Day Breakfast Challenge and get a 5 recipes, tips and daily emails to make eating breakfast a breeze. You can start anytime and it’s free. Register here today!