Saturday, 17 January 2009

High Carb Feasts and Sleep - a Failed Attempt

Last week in High Carb Feasts Could Help You Sleep I put forward the hypothesis, based on my gluttony episodes over the festive season, that going to bed with a belly full of carb-laden, tryptophan-rich food could represent one big timed-release sleep aid. For reasons I will give in a moment, I had an opportunity on Wednesday night to test the hypothesis further.

On Thursday I was due for my latest scheduled blood test to assess the status of various counts in the context of a supposed condition, aplastic anemia. I had been eating wheat-based products daily for just over two weeks leading up to the test, to see whether this would make any difference to the results - I explain more about this in Doctors and Nutrition Part 2 - My Wheat Experiment. I am pulling together the results from the last few years into a chart to provide context and will post about the results in a day or two.
Elephant's Ear
Since Wednesday night was the last night before the test, I decided to have a good dose of wheat just to be sure. Conveniently, I was eating at an Indian restaurant that night and this afforded me the opportunity to combine business with pleasure by ordering a garlic naan the size of an elephant's ear instead of my normal salad. The more astute amongst you will recognise the signs of classic dietary rationalisation. My resolve has not yet returned to its normal iron-like state after the festive indulgences so I allowed my weaker self to be convinced that this was necessary despite having previously determined that a lower daily dose of wheat was appropriate.

Regardless of the necessity of guzzling this pizza-sized, reeking slab of dough, it provided me with most of the necessary ingredients to replicate my supposed sleep-inducing meals - a large amount of tryptophan-rich poultry (I also had a half roasted chicken) and a large amount of carbohydrate.
Another tryptophan-rich food I had consumed as part of my Christmas feasts was chocolate. I certainly had no intention of re-visiting the kind of sugary nasties I had been eating a few weeks prior, but as luck would have it we had in the house a block of unsweetened chocolate Mrs M had bought on a whim for cooking. This I consumed voraciously, with Mrs M just managing to muscle in to acquire a small piece for herself. It's actually rather nice - or at least I found it nice as someone whose taste buds are not daily dulled by sugar-laden junk.
Worst Night's Sleep in Months
Did I sleep well? No. In fact, ironically, I had one of the worst night's sleep in months. As usual, a few hours of solid sleep gave way to the familiar broken, restless slumber. There is a small amount of caffeine in chocolate, but the fact that the problems were later in the night suggests this was not the issue. A counter argument would be the timed-release idea that forms part of the hypothesis, but as I say, the amounts in chocolate are small.

I don't intend to turn this into a Seth Roberts style self-experimentation series, not least because I am simply not willing to subject myself to these foods regularly. The Wheat Experiment was probably a one-off and after that and the festive season, I feel like a several-month run of strict Paleo is called for.
However, the one difference that stands out between the recent test and the feasts over Christmas is dairy. Milk is a tryptophan-rich food, and over the festive season my feasts invariably culminated in some kind of dessert with lashings of cream, custard or both. My recent naan, chicken and chocolate event, did not. Perhaps at some point in the future I will take the opportunity to continue this entirely unscientific research...

See Also:
High Carb Feasts Could Help You Sleep
Doctors and Nutrition Part 2 - My Wheat Experiment


Andrew is getting fit said...

I sleep better when I'm not eating that stuff...

Anonymous said...

I eat warrior diet style, which means big meals quite close to bed time. I had similar observation with high carb / low fat meals.

Here is what I noted to my journal:

-eating protein+carb meal takes a lot of time and effort, however I had a better sleep. ... I also felt much more hungry in the morning (not much fats eaten).

I still have some fat to burn, so I rarely eat higher carb meals these days. I will do more experimentation when I get lean. For now, proteins and fats rule my world ;)

Anonymous said...

Rebound hypo during the wee small hours

Asclepius said...

Perhaps the first time I have seen someone use an 'Indian' as part of scientific research!

Anonymous said...

Oy! High carb feasts before bedtime sounds like a recipe for heartburn to me.

Hope the carby overload was worth it in your blood test results!

Methuselah said...

Radek - I know about the warrior diet, and I sometimes end up doing this myself when I have done a dinner to dinner fast on two consecutive days (usually because I am too busy to eat or because I have eaten too much when breaking the previous fast!)

Look forward to hearing about any experimentation you do manage when you've trimmed off the fat. I am currently flirting with ketosis to accelerate my own fat burning.

p.s. I notice you are based in Birmingham UK - always good to get a comment from a fellow Brummie!

Anonymous said...

Interesting experiment, I've been speculating about the glucose/sleep issue myself. Have yet to make an experiment of it, though. Check out my blog for a lot of other human experiments.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you have learned something for this expirement. Maybe it IS the dairy that helps with the sleep. My great grandmother ALWAYS took a glass of warm milk to help her sleep. That is not the first time I have heard of that either. Sometimes I will have a half cup of plain, wholefat yogurt with berries for dessert before bed. I find that I do sleep well when I do this. It may be the dairy and not the carbs that induced your festive sleep. Just speculating here.

The SoG

Methuselah said...

SOG - now I have the problem that every time I am faced with temptation in the form of a dessert with cream I will find myself trying to justify eating it in the name of science ;-)

Methuselah said...

Inhuman Experiment - be sure to come back and let us know if you do any experimentation in this area...

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