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How Kefir Helps You Sleep (and other natural sleep aids)

Kefir is the king of natural sleep aids – here’s why.

Your sleep patterns are regulated by a neurotransmitter called serotonin.1 Specialised cells called EC (enterochromaffin) cells inside your gut work closely together with gut microbes2 to produce 90% of the serotonin inside your body. Damage to the gut microbiome by antibiotics, stress, sugar or environmental toxins can wipe out those microbes, and compromise your serotonin production. No serotonin production = no sweet sleep.

In order to create serotonin, your body also needs an essential amino acid called tryptophan.3 Essential amino acids are organic compounds that you need for good health, but which cannot be made by your body; they must be obtained through your diet.4

So, in order to sleep well, you need to consume “tryptophan foods,” so that your body can produce enough serotonin. Goats milk kefir is the very best food supplement choice to help you sleep, as it contains both tryptophan and live bacteria to aid your gut bugs. Our kefir also reduces tiredness and fatigue, because it contains high levels of Vitamin B12.

Other tryptophan-rich foods are “protein foods.” They include the following:

  • chicken
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • kefir
  • milk
  • turkey
  • tofu and fermented soy

Foods to avoid for better sleep

• Anything that damages your gut microbiome will impair your serotonin synthesis, and should be avoided. This includes any food that scores 55 or higher on the Glycemic Index, meaning that your body burns it into sugar very quickly.5 Opt for anti-inflammatory, slow burning carbs like oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, millet and buckwheat, rather than high-GI choices like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta.

• Avoid anything that contains refined sugar, including cakes, biscuits, sweets, energy or sugary drinks.6

• If you are prone to heartburn, avoid spicy foods, as heartburn will disturb your sleep.

• Avoid alcohol – it may make you sleep more deeply in the first half of the night, but will disrupt your second (and more important) phase of sleep.7

Should you eat at certain times, to promote better sleep?

Your body clock, (or circadian rhythm) is a 24-hour biological cycle that occurs individually in every cell of your body. It helps to regulate your sleep, hormone and energy levels. Your body clock in synchronised to your environment by two things: your exposure to daylight, and the timing of your meals.

The primary signalling agent in this process is insulin,8 a hormone which helps your body process sugar.9 This is part of the reason that it’s important to avoid sugar and high-GI foods when you’re chasing better sleep. Sugary foods cause your body to release large amounts of insulin, which can throw off your body clock.

But many other things in modern life can affect your circadian rhythm, and throw your body clock out of whack: artificial light, a long “eating window,” inconsistent bed and waking times can all confuse your internal systems, causing havoc in your sleep patterns.

Researchers now believe that eating within an 8-10 hour time period may be ideal, because it allows the digestive system the right amount of time to perform its function, as well as enough time to repair and rejuvenate. For an ideal “sleep diet,” try to wait a few hours after waking to eat, and finish eating a few hours before bed.10

Other all-natural sleep-boosting hacks

• Half an hour before bedtime, drink a cup of Sing Me to Sleep Tea – a natural loose-leaf herbal tea that contains lavender, hops, valerian, chamomile.

• Take 100-350 mg of magnesium daily at bedtime. Insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with low magnesium often experience restless sleep, waking frequently during the night. (If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, have a heart block, bleeding disorder, kidney problems, or are taking regular medication, please consult a doctor before supplementing with magnesium).

• Set up a soothing bedtime ritual with a warm bath and natural Calm-Down Cleanser and Kefir Lotion, both of which contains lavender essential oil. Lavender works as an anxiolytic (an anxiety reliever) and as a sedative, to increase relaxation and calm, and help bring about sleep.

Shann Nix Jones is a nutritional advisor, gut health expert and the author of three best-selling books on the topic.

References

  1. Dennis T. McGinty, PhD - "Serotonin and Sleep: Molecular, Functional, and Clinical Aspects". Published by NCBI on May 1, 2009.
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2675905/
  2. California Institute of Technology - "Microbes help produce serotonin in gut". Published by ScienceDaily on April 9, 2015.
    link to articlehttps://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150409143045.htm
  3. Healthline - "What Is Tryptophan". Published by Healthline on January 18, 2018.
    link to articlehttps://www.healthline.com/health/tryptophan
  4. Healthline - "Essential Amino Acids: Definition, Benefits and Food Sources". Published by Healthline on August 17, 2018.
    link to articlehttps://www.healthline.com/nutrition/essential-amino-acids#definition
  5. Harvard Health Publishing - "Glycemic index for 60+ foods". Published by Harvard Medical on February 1, 2015.
    link to articlehttps://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods
  6. Julie Carter - "How food & drink affect sleep". Published by Health Navigator on December 19, 2019.
    link to articlehttps://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/sleep/how-food-drink-affect-sleep/
  7. London Sleep Centre-Neuropsychiatry - "Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep.". Published by NCBI on January 24, 2013.
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23347102
  8. Medical Research Council - "How eating feeds into the body clock". Published by ScienceDaily on April 25, 2019.
    link to articlehttps://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190425143607.htm
  9. Amy Hess-Fischl MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE - "What is Insulin?". Published by Endocrineweb on May 28, 2019.
    link to articlehttps://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/what-insulin
  10. Max Lowery - "How to Live In Sync with Your Body Clock". Published by 2 Meal Day on June 25, 2018.
    link to articlehttps://2mealday.com/article/how-to-live-in-sync-with-your-body-clock/

8 thoughts on “How Kefir Helps You Sleep (and other natural sleep aids)

    1. We still advise drinking the kefir first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. It needn’t be drunk at night to get these benefits 🙂

  1. Thank you for the great advice Shann.
    I have been on antibiotics for 8 days. My sleep has not been good. I look forward to a good night sleep with goat kefir. Thanks for sharing all of that wonderful research you have done to make our lives better.

    1. Hi,

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      The latest science shows that it is a good idea to continue taking kefir before, during and after your course of antibiotics so you may like to do this if you take any further antibiotics in future 🙂

      The use of probiotics during a course of antibiotics can help reduce side effects and prevent gut infection. You can read the full article here: https://chriskresser.com/what-to-do-if-you-need-to-take-antibiotics/

  2. Hi Shann, I find this very interesting . I take your Kefir daily first thing and then don’t eat for about an hour and have porridge.
    I’m lucky I am retired 😊
    I am pre-diabetic at the moment and hope to keep myself away from medication.
    I do suffer from disturbed nights and have been taking Magnesium to hopefully cut down on the cramp in my legs.
    I also have indigestion, normally because I have eaten fat or sugar, which can be horrible at night, so I started taking some Kefir before bedtime. I haven’t been doing this long but so far I notice better nights sleep so I don’t think it is just a coincidence.
    Obviously I try to avoid the bad foods for my condition but often I just can’t resist a treat of chocs or pastry, hence the indigestion so I really pay for this sin. Is there an amount of Kefir I should take before bed?
    I have loved your books and have passed them around my family.
    Regards to you and your team,
    Gill Gordon

    1. Hi Gill,

      So glad you’ve found our kefir helps with indigestion!

      We usually recommend drinking the kefir first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, however, if you find it helps before bed, that’s absolutely fine 🙂 We drink up to a pint in the morning here on the farm so there’s no real strict rule with regards to the dosage – we advise 170ml but it’s OK to drink more – just be sure to gradually increase the dose.

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂

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