Episode highlights

01:16 – Lily’s personal struggle inspired her to study nutrition

06:50 – We are trying to squeeze more into our day and there’s a lot of anxiety

09:09 – What happens when you are sleep deprived?

11:43 – The correlation between sleep deprivation and weight gain

15:22 – Recommended foods for breakfast

17:57 – Poor sleeping habits could raise levels of the stress hormone, cortisol

19:55 – Common causes of insufficient or disrupted sleep

25:48 – Long-term effects of not sleeping enough

31:27 – Five simple things that could improve your sleep

35:34 – Ongoing research on foods and Vitamin D


Fitness Guide


Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby.

Darren: This is season one, episode 10 of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about sleep and the importance of sleep in relation to our overall health. Today’s guest is Lily Soutter. Lily’s passion is to simplify the science around nutrition, to provide health hacks and smarter eating strategies, to empower people to enjoy a healthy and successful lifestyle. Lily’s specialities lie in the workplace wellness, implementing nutrition and focused wellbeing programmes within the corporate organizations across the UK. And Lily has appeared on many of primetime daytime TV programs providing health and nutrition tips. Hi, Lily, how are you?

Lily: Good, thank you. Thanks for having me on.

Darren: Thanks for coming on to the show today. Before we kick off with all of the questions, it will be really useful for the listeners if you could please kind of give an introduction to yourself.

Lily: Absolutely. I guess I have always been in nutrition; I’ve always been in the industry. I got into nutrition because I really struggled with my skin. I suffered from really bad psoriasis when I was a child and I went to every single sort of medical doctor that you could get in relation to skin health. Really, I’ve struggled and, in those days, there really wasn’t many treatments around for psoriasis.

I tried everything. I tried a lot of alternative therapies and nothing seemed to help. Obviously, as a skin condition, it can be really quite… Not debilitating, but it can really impact your self-esteem, so I was desperate. Eventually, I saw a nutritionist and she just discussed the role of diet in relation to skin health and it was really the first time I thought, “Oh, you know what? I’m going to look at diet.”

Strangely, when I made those changes to my diet, it was the first time that my psoriasis kind of went into remission. You can’t cure psoriasis but it just didn’t reappear and it was amazing. Obviously, throughout my life, I will get flare ups but the dietary changes I made massively helped. From then on, I thought, “Wow, food can do this. It can be so powerful.” So I trained at Newcastle University where I carried out a four-year food and Human Nutrition degree and there was lots of research going on there and it was very evidence- based so it was very exciting.

Then after that I did a further two years doing nutritional therapy and I’m just completing my MSc in Nutritional Medicine at Surrey University now. I see clients in Chelsea and from a medical practice in Notting Hill and then I do a lot of… Obviously, a big bulk of what I do is workplace wellness sessions. I go into offices to discuss how to enhance energy, also touching on things like sleep, mood, brainpower, all of these things, and focusing on how diet, nutrition and food can enhance these areas of people’s lives in the workplace.

Darren: That’s fantastic and I think the corporate wellness side of things–before we obviously go into the topic around sleep–is very interesting, isn’t it? Because the majority of people spend a large part of their life in these offices, in these boxes, working away on a daily basis. Until now, no one’s really thought about the wellness in the workplace. Yes, there’s been kind of desktop assessments and how you sit at your desk and all the rest of it but nobody’s looked at it as a kind of a bigger picture. What are the type of things that you go into corporates and work on?

Lily: With nutrition, really, I think a big area would be energy. Obviously, the more energized we are, the more efficient we’re going to be. Often people, I think to create efficiency throughout their lives, they tend to forego things like attention to good sleep, to diet, to exercise, and all these areas actually are hindering our efficiency at work. All of those things seem to go out the window so I go in and I talk about simple strategies that people can implement because a lot of the people I speak to are very, very time poor and busy. The strategies have to be relatively easy to implement, to enhance energy.

We look at different types of foods, we look at things like their lunches, which is a really important area because so many people struggle with that post-lunch slump. Then obviously, things like immune function is an area we touch upon in relation to diet because if we’re overworked and we’re not eating a healthy well-rounded diet, we’re lacking in sleep, it really can affect our immune system and that leads to sick days.

Obviously, diet, you can cover so many things with diet because food fuels the body and brain. But then other practitioners will go into the workplace and it kind of has this complimentary approach in the sense that you will have psychologists maybe discussing sleep specifically, or you have people focusing on mindfulness, or you have people focusing on exercise and all of that comes together and really can enhance wellbeing and also just quality of life within the workplace.

Darren: Yeah. That’s very important and I think as you touched on there, the importance around the work environment, specifically from a business perspective, it is so important that the employees, the staff team members are all following this kind of “wholer” lifestyle. Because it does affect performance: it affects their overall performance, not just in the workplace, but in the home as well.

Talking about sleep and the lack of it and being overworked, why do you think…? Obviously, sleep is a fundamental part of our daily lives. We have to do it on a daily basis to repair our bodies. But why do you think is it now that there’s starting to become more of a focus around sleep? What do you think has changed?

Lily: I guess people are really into their health and wellbeing now: it’s really popular. I think the wellness industry has definitely expanded and grown and people are more aware of the fact that there’s more books coming out, I think, around sleep and more awareness around the whole thing. But also, I think, as a country, we’re probably not sleeping as much as we used to. Partly because we’re trying to fit more into our day but also people are getting really anxious, they are on social media, we’ve got emails coming in all the time so it actually, will hinder everything around sleep.

I think also you can notice if you’re sleep deprived, it’s going to massively affect your performance the next day and just general wellbeing and I think all of this is coming to light now. I think years ago, obviously, we didn’t have emails, we didn’t have Instagram, we weren’t bombarded with all this information, so we probably slept slightly better. And now I think it’s affecting so many people.

Darren: True. I think the demands on our attention now are so great with these devices that we have in our hand on all the various different communication platforms that we use on a daily basis. You can very easily kind of get caught in a tailspin. Particularly at night as well when you’re deemed to be relaxing but actually, if you’re sitting on the sofa and you’re going through all these platforms, you’re not relaxing. It’s probably getting you more, I don’t know, kind of active brain wise than we used to.

I think the other thing is that it used to be seen in the workplace, specifically when I was in the corporate world, that the longer hours you work, the better you were at your job and all the rest of it. Whereas actually some research that I’ve read, if you are sleep deprived–you probably know this better than me–but it’s something like if you have less than six hours sleep for two weeks, your actual cognitive function is equivalent to being drunk or something like that, is it?

Lily: Yeah. You’re right. And I think obviously, it’s going to affect your performance at work. So people think they’re being more efficient but they’re probably not. Also, it will affect relationships within the workplace because I think everyone can relate to the fact that when you’re sleep deprived, you’re more irritable, you’re probably- I know, I’m definitely more irritable and my brain is not functioning as it really should be. It just can impact not only your work but also your relationships, the way you eat, so many areas of health.

In a way, with my personal sleep, I have struggled with sleep in the past and my opinion is: get my solid sleep that I need for the day so I can actually function better and more efficiently. Rather than going through life totally sleep deprived, trying to fit more stuff in but doing really a half-hearted job.

Darren: Yeah, definitely. I definitely feel like the tables have turned to actually get your seven to eight hours sleeping in a night, and you’re actually being more effective. I’ve tried to implement that in my life and I’ve tried to follow my body clock. I’m more effective in the morning; I’m less effective in the evening, so I go to bed earlier now than I used to but I’m always trying to make sure that I get that seven to eight hours sleep a night. I feel like it makes a massive difference. If I’ve gone to an event, for example, and I’ve maybe only got five or six hours sleep that night, the following day, I can really, really feel it, particularly in the morning. You get this brain fog and that kind of thing goes on.

Lily: Absolutely and I agree. I tend to be more of a morning person so I just really have focused on making sure I get most of my work done in the morning. If I’ve got something really difficult to do, I try and get that done first thing because I know late at night, my brain just stops. And it’s getting into bed earlier so you can make the most of those peak hours of when you’re most active.

Darren: Yeah, absolutely. If we think about sleep and how it’s linked to weight and fat loss, obviously there’s an element of if you are sleep deprived, it induces more stress in your body. But how is sleep linked to weight and fat loss? Because it wouldn’t necessarily be an association that you would make, would it?

Lily: Well, no, and it really is strongly correlated with an increased risk of being obese or having weight gain so there’s definitely a link there. Some of the mechanisms could be around appetite hormones. There’s been seen an increase in ghrelin, which is our appetite stimulant hormone and a decrease in leptin–which is your kind of appetite suppressant hormone–when you are sleep deprived. Physically being sleep deprived can make us hungrier.

Then more research, there was actually an interesting systematic review and meta-analysis of looking at sleep deprivation and what they saw was that people who are sleep deprived tend to consume around 385 more calories the next day when they’re sleep deprived. So people tend to eat more.

Then further research has also shown that cravings for things like quick fix foods or people tend to reach for foods such as sweet foods, salty foods and even starchy foods and that increases by about 45%. So not only does sleep deprivation make you hungrier, you’re also much more likely to make the wrong choices with food. One of the things people ask me in offices is how do I minimize all those sugar cravings that I get all day long?

People tend to reach for that sugar in the afternoon, which is fine but obviously, there’s lots of tactics and strategies. You could think about “but I often go to sleep” and I say, Well, are you sleeping enough? Because if you’re not, it’s going to increase your cravings for these sorts of foods. Your willpower is going to be down, you’re going to be physically hungrier, and your body is almost primed to choose maybe the wrong kinds of foods. It’s just something which I think can really impact our food choices.

Darren: Yeah, definitely. I definitely remember when I was in the corporate world, it is a typical scenario: if you’ve had a lack of sleep, you’ve worked late the previous day, you get up early in the morning, you get on the train, the first thing you do is you reach for a sugary, milky, latte or whatever, to have on the train. You kind of get that boost and then you think you’re okay. Well, that’s only going to last for a short period of time, isn’t it? Whilst you get that initial kind of boost and then you’re going to crash again. Then I think the other thing is it kind of manifests itself, doesn’t it? Because you’re kind of constantly getting this peak and this trough and you’re constantly going for these quick fixes which you don’t realize are quick fixes. But actually, long term, it’s just snowballing, isn’t it?

Lily: Absolutely. Those quick fix foods can lead to blood sugar imbalances which (are) kind of almost like a blood sugar roller coaster throughout the day which, as you were saying, gives you bursts of energy but it doesn’t give you sustained energy all day long and you’re just having these highs and lows. Focusing on foods which provide a slow release of energy into the bloodstream is going to be actually really important at those times but it may not be what you’re actually looking for or craving.

Darren: Yeah. What would you say particularly in the mornings then, for that slow release kind of foods would be the types of things that would be most beneficial?

Lily: Starting your day with a protein element in your diet could be important alongside complex fibre-rich carbohydrates. Interestingly, as a population, we actually consume most of our calories and even protein intake at the end of the day in our evening meal and moderate amounts at lunch, and we consume the least in the morning, which may not be the right way around of doing things. We know that research has shown that breakfast eaters tend to have better concentration, memory, mood, all these things, so making sure that you’re having a breakfast which really balances blood sugar is going to be important.

What protein does is it actually helps to slow the rate at which a carbohydrate will break down into sugar and it helps it release energy into the bloodstream slowly. To give you an example, if you had a piece of toast, it will break down into sugar. It’s your carbohydrate and it will break down into sugar but if you combine that with protein-rich egg, for example, that toast will breakdown into sugar at a slower rate or it will release its energy into the bloodstream more slowly.

If you had a banana, which is your carbohydrate, that will break down to sugar, but if you combine it with protein-rich yogurt, it will break down into sugar at a slower rate and you get a more steady drip-fed release of energy into the bloodstream all day long. So it’s thinking of those combinations. I mean, I personally love things like porridge and I mix in a few chia seeds with it but that’s a very slow release carbohydrate. Making sure that whatever you’re having for breakfast will have some fibre, a bit of protein, is going to be absolutely key. If we’re starting our day with a sugary pastry, or as you said a sugary latte, or whatever it is, that has very little protein, may have little fibre in and it’s something which will break down its sugar very, very quickly and will only give us a short burst of energy.

Darren: That’s really key. I actually didn’t realize that protein did slow down the release of carbohydrates: that’s something that I’ve learned today. But interestingly, what I was going to say- when we’re talking about these peaks and troughs and we’re talking about the blood sugar being raised, and then kind of crashing down again, that’s going to be then linked to gaining weight as well, isn’t it?

Lily: Potentially. Potentially. I guess, really, weight gain is about an over consumption of calories in relation to how much energy you’re expending. I guess if those foods are high calorie foods that you’re having, that’s not going to be a positive thing. It could potentially lead to weight gain in an indirect way but really, overall, if we are sleep deprived, we tend to move less, we don’t exercise as much. We tend to eat more, eat more of the wrong kind of foods and really that is what’s going to make us gain weight.

I think just as another side note: what’s interesting is that when we are sleep deprived, what research has shown is that the next day, our levels of the stress hormone cortisol are elevated. It shouldn’t be really that elevated and it shouldn’t stay elevated right throughout the day, so the levels of cortisol are higher than what they should be and they stay high right throughout up until the evening. And there’s some research to show that cortisol or high levels of cortisol can be related to having a higher body weight or weight gain and it can also signal for fat to be deposited around the middle, so there is like a hormonal aspect there as well. And it’s certainly not a healthy thing to be having like a chronic output of the stress hormone on a continuous basis.

Darren: Yeah, okay, I see. In terms of people actually going to sleep and getting to sleep, you hear a lot of people saying, “Well, I struggle to sleep, if I go to bed early at night,” or “I have restless sleep” and things like that. What would you say, in your opinion, are the contributing factors to people not being able to sleep properly, getting broken and restless sleep?

Lily: I guess from a food perspective, heavy meals before bed can disrupt sleep. Again, a lot of people I speak to in offices tend to get home at sort of eight o’clock or nine o’clock at night and then they start cooking. If they’re eating maybe the wrong kinds of foods, if it’s a very heavy meal, that’s going to lead to poor quality sleep and you wake up feeling really groggy.

Alcohol consumption, although we know that it almost sedates us in a way, it does disrupt sleep, particularly during the second half of the night.  What’s more, obviously, things like caffeine is going to affect sleep as well. We all have different abilities to metabolize caffeine, so you’ve got specific genes which determine how well you metabolize caffeine. You’ve got fast metabolizers and you’ve got slow metabolizers.

This means that some people could drink a coffee before bed after dinner and be fine but others, it would literally disrupt their sleep the whole night. I guess in that sense, it’s really just trying to gauge- does caffeine affect you? If you do struggle with sleep, it’s better to drink your caffeine earlier on in the day rather than after 12 where it could disrupt sleep because I think it’s got a half-life of around five to six hours, so it will stay in your system for quite a while.

I think that’s one of the biggest changes I made. When I was younger, I thought I loved caffeine. I was like, right, I need more energy and actually, I wasn’t doing myself any justice by having it in the afternoon. People don’t always know what is the recommended intake of caffeine and actually it’s only around 400 milligrams per day. That equates to one venti–I don’t know how you pronounce it. But you know, the large coffee of Starbucks or it’s four very small cups. But the smallest size you can get in Starbucks is around 180 milligrams, so it’s about half of our recommended intake. Some people are relying on that all day long so it’s something just to bear in mind.

I guess when it comes to lifestyle factors, obviously, you’ve got the blue light, which is coming from our phones, our laptops. I think what it does is it doesn’t just disrupt our ability to sleep; I think it also disrupts the quality of sleep as well. From a personal sort of anecdotal area, I find exercise massively helpful for sleep. I really noticed if I don’t exercise, it does disrupt my sleep. It’s almost like tiring myself out. But also exercising outside in the fresh air in the daylight, helping us become aware that it’s daylight and actually getting outside and knowing that at night time you’re dimming the lights, and then that helps to produce melatonin at night. But if we are sitting indoors all day long, particularly in the winter– and we’re not seeing much of the daylight–that can have impacts on our circadian rhythm which could affect sleep.

Darren: Yeah. I think that they’re very valid and interesting points. The caffeine side of things, I know personally if I have a coffee any time after 2 pm in the afternoon, I’m going to struggle to sleep in the evening. The whole kind of blue light scenario that gets given off by our devices–our phones and tablets and the rest of it–I’ve made a conscious decision and I don’t really know if this has improved my sleep. But I make a conscious decision now to make sure that I’m off of that at least an hour before I go to bed to improve that.

I think for me, I exercise quite a lot so I tend to… I think I have a reasonably good night’s sleep. But the very key point you made there is about actually getting outside and just taking in some fresh air. I find that so, so important even just to kind of reset the day. If you’re in the middle of the day and you are kind of caught up and you’re very, very busy, it’s very easy for hours to just fly past because you’re sitting at a desk. Actually, kind of putting a hard stop on your day and saying, “You know what-I’m going to go out for 15, 20 minutes,” just to get outside in the fresh air, I think is very, very important.

Lily: Absolutely. I think from an element of an energy perspective, if you are feeling tired… Do you rely on caffeine or they rely on these quick fix foods like sugar to give them a boost? But actually, going outside and walking for a brisk five-minute walk or a 10-minute walk can actually enhance your energy throughout the day. It can boost our mood, it invigorates us, and it is a natural energy boost. Often, I know some companies who do things like walking meetings but also when you have that slump in the afternoon, getting out for five or 10 minutes could enhance energy. Also, then it has those positive effects on the fact that you’re getting out into the daylight so your body knows it’s day.

Darren: Yeah, rather than just going from a… Like you’re saying, particularly in the winter you kind of go from a dark commute into a dark office and then when you come out, it’s dark again. Unless you go out in the middle of day, you’re not going to see any daylight at all, which is really, I think, not ideal.

In terms of long-term effects of the lack of sleep, what types of things have you come across? Or what have studies shown of the impact of a long-term effect if we’re not sleeping enough?

Lily: I guess, obviously, you’ve got the obesity issue and that in and of itself comes with a whole load of a whole host of problems, but also heart disease, so things like raised blood pressure or high blood pressure. Diabetes as well is really interesting. There’s definitely associations with sleep deprivation and an increased risk of diabetes.

I think there’s some controlled studies which have looked at subjects who have been sleep deprived for around six nights and the next day after they have been sleep deprived, they’ve almost had blood glucose levels of like a pre-diabetic. It’s only a temporary thing but it just shows you that it can impact our ability to deal with glucose and also it can impact insulin resistance as well.

There’s definitely a strong correlation there but I also think from a mental health perspective, there’s a lot of people struggling with anxiety and maybe even depression as well. Lack of sleep can definitely affect these mood disorders. Obviously, it’s difficult to know which one comes first, whether it’s the anxiety that’s causing issues with sleep, or it is the sleep affecting the anxiety, but it’s likely to be an issue with both. Really, long-term, it’s almost like a bit of a torture not being able to sleep.

Darren: Yeah, absolutely. They do use that, don’t they in torture techniques. Absolutely, yeah, I think that’s very important particularly around mental health. There’s been some great campaigns fairly recently to raise awareness about mental health. Particularly around men’s mental health because it’s been deemed in the past, I guess, to be seen as a weakness to talk out about you struggling with mental health and anxiety and things like that. But yeah, I think it invokes stress and things like that, having a kind of long-term lack of sleep.

I think motivation as well. In our community, one of the things that I regularly see is people commenting on the fact that they lack motivation. Nine times out of 10, I will ask them, “How much water they’re drinking, how much sleep are they getting?” Invariably, they are either getting kind of a broken sleep in terms of they’re not having a routine over sleep or they’re not taking enough water. But yes, sleep is a common factor and it is often overlooked, I feel.

Lily: Absolutely. I completely agree. And often people will want quick fixes in terms of how can they have more energy. So when I do the talks, they may want a supplement or some kind of super food which is going to change their lives. But sometimes they’re actually not sleeping and if they don’t focus on their sleep, that supplement or whatever super food they think is going to help, probably won’t have a huge impact unless they first of all get enough sleep and then focus on the other things. That’s going to be the biggest thing that’s going to give them energy and often they miss that.

Darren: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because the kind of default human response is to make it complicated and go through with, like you say, super foods and supplements and all the rest of it. Yeah, all of that has its place, but more often than not, if you just boil this back down to kind of simple approaches… When you say to someone, “How are you sleeping?” It’s almost like they dismiss it, isn’t it, in some cases? “Well, of course I sleep, you know. I have enough sleep.”

Or the other common one I hear, particularly from men, “Why, I only need five hours of sleep. I don’t need eight hours of sleep.” But actually, if you look at your performance and your moods and your just general health, you’ll probably find you actually do need more than five hours sleep a night. So I think over complicating that, I think, is wrong.

Lily: Absolutely. And I think people get used to a certain level of sleep. They kind of get used to… They think that’s the norm in a way. If someone is relying on six hours’ sleep a night and they’ve been doing that for long periods of time, they may feel, “Okay, this is the norm and this is the way I function.” But often people forget that, actually, having more sleep and focusing on things like nutrition and exercise, you don’t realize how great you can feel. You can feel so much better and you can really reach your full potential.

That’s not always seen, but also a lot of the health issues internally aren’t always obvious. We can’t see blood pressure, we may not get symptoms of elevated blood pressure, we can’t always see if we are pre-diabetic or we’ve got issues with glucose. It’s not always that obvious at first, and it kind of may be happening underneath–in your body-without you even realizing.

Darren: Yeah, until it’s too late, right? Until you have an illness and you need to go and see a GP. In terms of like simple key actions that the listeners could take away today to make a positive change, what five key things would you suggest that people can do to either get more sleep (or) improve their sleep?

Lily: Absolutely. I think some of them will cover what we have discussed. I guess obviously the first one is the caffeine side of things from a nutrition standpoint. It is just being aware that we all have different abilities to metabolize caffeine, depending on your genes. Even if your friend is consuming caffeine and is fine with sleep, and they say “no, it’s not an issue,” well, it may not be the case for you. What you could do is switch to some calming tea. Whilst there still needs to be more research done on specific herbal teas, there is some evidence to suggest that they may aid with sleep or with calming properties or reducing anxiety. You could look at things like valerian root. Lemon balm is the other one- lavender, camomile.

And if you are thinking of using herbal teas generally, what you could do is steep them for around 15 minutes to get the benefits. If you are on any medication or you have any health conditions, it’s important just to check that there’s no contraindications there, but it’s something which is worth a try.

The next point I would say is do look at your evening meal. One area with this is many people think, “oh gosh, I shouldn’t eat carbs at night because they’re going to make me gain weight.” Actually, that isn’t necessarily true. It’s about the types of carbs that you’re having. But also, they may have a positive impact on sleep. Interestingly, tryptophan is something that’s a part of a protein molecule. Tryptophan is really rich in things like chicken and turkey, so you may have heard that kind of saying “turkey makes you sleepy.” But you do find tryptophan in other protein-rich foods like yoghurt and nuts, seeds, all these things.

Tryptophan is the precursor to our sleep hormone, melatonin. When you combine tryptophan-rich foods with certain carbohydrates or with carbohydrates, what happens is that tryptophan can be transported across the blood brain barrier to produce melatonin. It’s actually maybe a positive thing and just making sure your evening meal is pretty balanced.

I generally give advice saying, “Fill half your plate with vegetables, rainbow coloured veg. Quarter is your starchy carbohydrates, so focusing on the whole grains or like the brown rice, brown bread, brown pasta or potato with the skin on; beans, lentils, chickpeas. Then the last quarter is your protein and fat. For example, it could be chicken is your protein, fat is avocado, or it could be a salmon fillet which is protein and fat. Just making sure that your evening meal isn’t too heavy and maybe there is an element of carbohydrate in there which could aid with sleep.

The third point obviously, I think I already mentioned, but it would be looking at alcohol. If you really do struggle with sleep or if the quality of your sleep is very poor and you wake up feeling groggy, just being mindful of how much you’re consuming could enhance sleep.

Exercise is a crucial one. If you can get exercise outdoors, that’s going to be even better. Then the last area to focus on, number five, would be just the blue light: the laptops, the phone, all of those things. Again, even if you get to sleep fine, what it can do is affect the actual quality of the sleep and you can end up waking up feeling pretty groggy.

Darren: That’s perfect. Some five very simple things that people can take away and just be more aware of to improve their sleep. Before we wrap up, Lily, is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you feel I should have asked you that would benefit the listeners?

Lily: Let me have a think. I think some areas where there isn’t quite enough research on but could be of interest for some people- because there probably is going to be more research coming out on this. I’m not sure whether you’ve heard of Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice before, at all. Have you heard of that?

Darren: No, I haven’t.

Lily: There is some research around this tart cherry juice because it’s actually very rich in something called melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is quite interesting. There has been research conducted consuming tart cherry juice once in the morning, once in the evening, over around a two-week period and it has helped with sleep with those who struggle with insomnia. Although there needs to be a lot more research on larger groups of people before you can confirm, “right, this is definitely going to be used as a sleep aid,” I think it’s quite a cool functional food. It’s obviously a food which has melatonin which could be thought of as something which is worth a try and it isn’t harmful.

Then there’s more research around kiwi fruit as well. There has been research: a group of people have had two kiwi fruit a night every day for four weeks–so for a month–and that’s improved sleep. The researchers aren’t sure why this is. It could be because kiwi fruit is very high in serotonin–serotonin is the precursor to melatonin–or it could be something to do with certain antioxidants or the fact that it’s rich in folate. Again, it’s not like a magic pill for sleep but it’s just interesting research of things from a nutritional aspect.

Darren: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s something I’ve not heard of before but it is fascinating some of the studies that are coming out, and understanding how the foods that are already available to us could help in that regard.

Lily: Absolutely. I guess just the very last one would be vitamin D. A lot of people in the UK are actually deficient in vitamin D without even realizing and the government guidelines are to take supplements from October to April throughout winter. To take 10 micrograms, so everyone over the age of four should consider taking a supplement throughout the winter period. Vitamin D comes from the sun and throughout winter, there’s just not sufficient sunlight to manufacture vitamin D within our body.

There has been associations and research around vitamin D deficiencies and insomnia and difficulties with sleep. They think it’s because there are certain vitamin D receptors found within the brain that are thought to regulate sleep, but they’re not quite sure about the mechanism. I guess just from that research, the most important thing is, make sure you’re not deficient in vitamin D and do consider supplementing throughout the winter.

Darren: That’s fantastic advice, actually. I didn’t actually realize it went down as low as people that are four years old. I’ve been supplementing with a vitamin D spray; that’s a new one on me so that’s fantastic. How can people connect with you, Lily? Obviously, you’re on @Lily_Soutter_nutrition on Instagram.

Lily: Yeah, absolutely, and then again @LilySoutterNutrition on Facebook and then just @LilySoutter on Twitter. Then obviously my website’s www.LilySoutterNutrition.com and I do a lot of newsletters on a weekly basis about lots of different topics around health and wellbeing. Also, I do a lot of workplace wellness sessions and all the information is there on the website with more information about those sessions.

Darren: That’s perfect. I highly recommend the listeners signing up to your newsletter because it’s very good, very informative, and there’s a lot of great stuff on your website, particularly around the wellness in the workplace as well. I highly recommend the guys going over there and having a look at that.

Thanks very much for your time today, Lily. I really appreciate your time and you’ve given us some great insights and some great information. Thank you again, and I will look forward to contacting you again soon.

Lily: Thanks very much.

Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at FitterHealthierDad.com