In today’s interview I get to speak with sleep, nutrition, and metabolism expert Greg Potter (PhD), about the habits that affect sleep and the role of nutrition in sleep quality.
The first step to fixing broken sleep is figuring out what is causing it. While we all strive for better sleep and waking up restful and energized, figuring out how to get there will be unique to the individual.
Today, Greg shares with us all the factors we need to consider when trying to improve our sleep, how important is diet and how should we be eating for improved sleep?
- How to go about fixing a broken sleep schedule
- What is sleep hygiene and why is it important
- What factors make up high quality sleep
- How to manage stimulus control
- How diet influences sleep; are carbohydrates good or bad
- How creatine can help
- What is chrononutrition and advice on how to utilize time-restricted eating
- Tips on better sleep
Then this interview is for them.
I really enjoyed talking to Greg who shared so much helpful information about improving sleep. We have only just scratched the surface today and already I can see myself trying out a number of actionable tips to see if I can improve sleep quality.
Special thanks to Greg for joining me on the show.
Enjoy the episode!
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Show Notes with Timestamp Links
Find summarised highlights of what we talk about during the interview.
Use the clickable timestamp links to jump directly to those points in the audio file below:
[00:08] – Introducing, Greg Potter, who helps a range of individuals feel and perform better; elite athletes, CEOs and people who have mood disorders. He has a PhD on the topics of sleep, nutrition and metabolism. Highlights of his career include his research being featured on international news outlets, incl. BBC and Reuters.
[01:28] – Greg explains that to fix a broken sleep schedule we need to start by taking a detailed medical history to ensure medication or an underlying condition are not a contributing factor, but also do ascertain when problems began and identify perpetuating problematic behaviours.
[02:49] – Spending too much time in bed awake can lead to a loss of association between bed and sleep. Greg recommends trying to re-establish that association with something called stimulus control of behaviour.
[04:22] – Sleep hygiene is also important and encompasses many components; meal timing, use of stimulants, exposure to light, pre-bed activities as well as timing of medications and sleep related thoughts are some of the main factors.
[05:52] – People often focus on sleep duration, but there are a lot of other dimensions to high quality sleep, sleep timing, variability, duration, continuity, as well as how well an individual feels.
[07:05] – Lots of things influence our sleep and the first thing Greg focuses on to help people with insomnia is stimulus control and changes to sleep hygiene. Tracing the persons sleep and over time moving to other therapies.
[11:04] – Greg explains that people with sleep problems need to do things differently to others. He explains how the use of devices like cellphones before bed exposes us to artificial light at night, stimulating content, and can cause us to lose track of time which all creates problems. The dopamine reward from scrolling social media accounts before sleep can be a big problem. Greg’s tip is ban your phone from your bedroom!
[16:37] – Is going on a low carbohydrate type diet good for sleep? Greg explains that there has not been much research on this subject, specifically. While some studies of the ketogenic diet have reported improvements in sleep quality, it could simply be due to the resulting weight loss.
[19:25] – Certain dietary constituents do influence sleep. Higher protein diets seem to negatively affect sleep quality. Increased creatine consumption could explain this.
[24:19] – Greg explains that evidence has shown that eating high glycemic load carbohydrates few hours before bedtime might help people fall asleep faster. For example, certain herbs and foods such as kiwi fruits, beef tomatoes, and tart cherry juice have also been shown to improve sleep quality.
[28:15] – People’s pre-diet perceptions of what is going to affect sleep will strongly affect their responses to it!
[28:57] – Creatine is promoted as beneficial for brain health for people over the age of 30, but it should be taken early in the morning (with food for improved uptake) so it doesn’t affect sleep. Greg talks benefits of creatine for brain health. Greg’s Tip is to take creatine during periods of time when you will not be getting as much sleep as you would like, caffeine can be used to a similar effect.
[33:46] – Greg explains chrononutrition; the reciprocal relationship between your diet and your body clocks. Our bodies are primed for food intake during the biological day time and it seems that consuming the greatest proportion of our food at certain times of day might be beneficial for health.
[35:46] – Time restricted eating entails consuming all calories within a period of 12 hours or less and is beneficial for health – and especially for people with poor metabolic health. Is early time-restricted eating the most beneficial?
[40:42] – Some things we can do to boost the beneficial effects of time restricted eating include: front-loading the consumption of carbohydrates (if applicable), diet regularity is important as is the sequence in which food is consumed.
[45:41] – Practical advice for shift workers. Greg explains why shift workers should have a small, satiating snack that is easy to digest at night.
[47:18] – Stimulant consumption is a big consideration for most people and there is a huge variability between people in how they respond to caffeine. Greg’s Tip is for most benefits cap intake to 3 mg of caffeine to kg of body mass per day, wait an hour after waking and then the earlier the better.
[49:33] – One meal a day (OMAD). Greg explains that the circadian clock influences how we dispose of glucose and how it differs in the morning vs evening.
[51:43] – Consuming a meal late at night also disrupts the overnight heart rate variability (as well as the resting heart rate) which anyone with an Oura ring might have noticed.
[53:17] – Alcohol is disruptive to the circadian rhythms at multiple different levels; in the gut, it fragments sleep and it exacerbates snoring as well as sleep apnoea.
[55:25] – With most things there is a trade off. Greg explains the paradox of the benefit of having carbs later in the evening for better sleeping vs overall metabolic health. Greg’s Tip is to reduce negative effects do moderate exercise in the afternoon 3 hours or so before bedtime and consume a small amount of carbs shortly after.
[1:01:55] – For anyone wanting to find out more, keep up to date, or even ask questions, find Greg on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or his website.