|March 10, 2020

6 Ways to Improve Sleep Using Food

By Dave Asprey
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy

6 Ways to Improve Sleep Using Food

  • You can eat your way to better sleep. It all starts with quality fats, protein and cutting out caffeine within eight hours of bedtime.
  • MCT oil and raw honey give your brain and body sustained energy while you sleep.
  • The right protein before bed supports muscle repair and immune function.
  • Keep reading for more tips to boost your sleep with food.

Not only does the Bulletproof Diet help you feel more focused and energized, it also supports better sleep. That’s because eating more quality fats, managing inflammation and nourishing your body gets people much closer to where they need to be in terms of sleep quality and quantity.

Here are the top six ways you can use diet to improve your sleep — I use these techniques when I’m traveling or under a lot of stress.

How to promote better sleep with food

1. Fill up with fat at dinner

MCT oil in wooden spoon

If your brain is always running on sugar, you get large blood sugar swings that make you tired, but also hungry, which is exactly what you don’t want If you’re trying to fall asleep.

Fat is like diesel fuel for your mind and body. Filling up with clean fats before bedtime gives you a steady stream of energy that prevents hunger and blood sugar swings. Grass-fed butter, animal fat and coconut oil are all good choices, but MCT oil is my personal favorite. MCT oil is converted into ketones, which are immediately used as fuel for your brain. MCT oil also helps burn body fat while you sleep.

I’ve also noticed that I think faster and more clearly the next morning if I have 1-2 tablespoons of MCT the night before with dinner, or even right before bed. It works even better with protein. Try this Adaptogenic Turmeric Latte, or this Sleepytime Tonic blended with Brain Octane MCT oil.

If you’re new to MCT oil, start with 1 teaspoon so your stomach stays happy.

2. Prime your system with protein

Scooping hydrolyzed collagen into glass

We use protein for muscle repair and immune function. Your body repairs muscle tissue at night during deep sleep, and you want to make sure it has everything it needs to heal and grow new tissue.

The problem is that you don’t want to eat a big meal before bed. Eating too close to bedtime increases your risk of acid reflux and indigestion, which will mess with your sleep quality.[1] And even if you’ve eaten a delicious grass-fed steak, it’s tough to fall asleep when you’re full.

I recommend taking 1-2 tablespoons of hydrolyzed, grass-fed collagen peptides before bed. Hydrolyzing the proteins makes them more digestible. If you tolerate dairy, undenated, cold-processed whey protein is another good choice with extra benefits.

3. Enjoy the power of whey protein

MCT oil powder in shaker cup

Whey protein has some unique benefits in terms of sleep. It’s easily digested, full of essential amino acids for repairing your body and contains bioactive milk peptides (BMPs). BMPs are a promising supplement for improving sleep and reducing stress.

These proteins are most effective in their undenatured form. Heating and pressurizing them actually reduces their effects, which is why I’ve always preferred to get BMPs from cold-processed whey protein concentrate, rather than pill form. Bonus benefit: Whey protein also helps your body produce glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant. More glutathione helps your liver remove toxins that may interfere with sleep.

Related: How to Choose the Best Protein Powder for Your Body

4. Try a tad of raw honey

Honey stirrer in puddle of honey

During the night, your brain uses a lot of energy. One efficient form of brain energy comes from sugar stored in your liver, called liver glycogen. Your brain uses glycogen stored in your liver.[2] So, having a little extra sugar before bed can help your brain function better at night.

I was skeptical of this trick when I first heard about it in “,” but I found it does work well as long as you don’t combine it with protein. Especially when you’re intermittent fasting or eating very few carbs, this is a great way to get deeper sleep. At first, I assumed that taking raw honey before bed would throw me out of fat-burning mode, but as long as I take MCT oil with the honey, enough ketones were produced to stay in fat burning mode.

Why raw honey? It has more beneficial nutrients than the conventional stuff, and rodent studies show raw honey may help you unwind.[3] Take 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey before bed and see if it helps with your sleep.

5. Fuel up with low-mercury fish (or krill oil)

Omega Krill Complex on orange background

Omega-3 fatty acids are part of the reason fatty fish like anchovies and salmon are so good for you. Omega-3s have been shown to support brain health, heart function and overall wellness. Research shows they can even help you sleep better. Higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA are associated with longer sleep duration and fewer sleep awakenings.[4] A 2016 study of adults living in rural coastal Ecuador found that oily fish consumption is associated with better sleep quality.[5]

The best sources of omega-3s are low-mercury wild-fish like haddock, sardines and sock-eye salmon. These foods also provide the protein you need for muscle repair before bed. However, I’ve found that krill oil gives me the best sleep. I’ve experimented with various kinds of fish oil, and pretty much every other omega-3 supplement you can think of, and only Bulletproof Omega Krill Oil has made a noticeable impact.

I recommend consuming your fish or krill oil at least two hours before bedtime. Avoid flax oil and hempseed oil because they are high in omega 6 and low in DHA and EPA.

Related: The Bulletproof Guide to Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 Fats

6. Enjoy your coffee … in the morning

Man enjoying a cup of coffee

Bulletproof Coffee is magical stuff, but caffeine isn’t exactly the best sleep aid. Drinking Bulletproof Coffee puts your mind into an amazing place where you become more productive and perform better. However, you also need to let your mind rest after its high-output performances.

In general, don’t drink coffee after 2:00 p.m., or at least eight hours before bedtime, whichever comes first. This will make sure you get all of the cognitive benefits of caffeine without sacrificing your sleep. Some people need more than eight hours of caffeine avoidance to sleep with maximum performance.

It strikes me as odd that most people don’t connect what they eat with how they sleep … but then again, biohackers like me strike people as odd when we add butter to our coffee.

The bottom line: It’s pretty simple. Try these tips and see how they support your sleep quality:

  • Some MCT oil before bed gives your brain energy it craves to function during the night.
  • Having protein before bed, like collagen protein or high-quality whey protein, gives you essential amino acids for muscle repair and energy.
  • Raw honey stocks your liver glycogen so your brain has that little bit of extra fuel to help deep sleep.
  • Krill oil gives your neurons the fertilizer they need to function optimally.
  • Timing your coffee intake to the morning hours makes sure you keep your brain sharp when you need it, but still give it rest during the night.

If you’re interested in more tips to supercharge your sleep, feel better and perform at your peak, enter your email to download the Bulletproof Sleep Roadmap below. Thanks for reading!

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This is an update of an article originally published December 2012.