Frontlines of Personal Science: Confirmation of After Dinner Sweets Effect

During the last week I have looked into the possibility that my sleep can be further improved — in addition to the bedtime honey improvement – by eating a similar amount of sugar (fructose and glucose) a few hours before bedtime. After I accidentally slept better than usual (or even better than usual), I tried to determine why. Several things had been unusual the day before. Two tests (here and here) pointed to the sugar (honey or banana) a few hours before bedtime.

Last night (Christmas Eve) I tried again. I ate a banana (132 g, peeled) about 3 hours (7 pm) before I fell asleep (10 pm). I fell asleep within a minute and woke up, after an apparently dreamless night, feeling perfectly rested. On my 0-100 percentage scale (100% = completely rested, no detectable tiredness), which I have been using for about 8 years, it was the first ever 100%.  I had slept about 6 hours, a good amount of time.

To celebrate, I had a cup of black tea. I didn’t need it to wake up but I like the taste. I reflected that countless people had drunk tea or coffee to wake up. I had found a better way.

Discovery that an hours-before-bedtime sweet improves sleep (in addition to bedtime honey — that’s what’s interesting) is significant not just for the obvious practical reason (better sleep) but also because it is the confirmation of a prediction. After I slept unusually well, I thought of six possible reasons. The notion that sugar improves sleep pointed to one of them. The results of every test I’ve done (three nights) have agreed with that prediction. I believe the only real test of a theory (such as an explanation) is whether it makes correct predictions — especially, whether it leads to the discovery of new cause-effect relationships. Many things people say haven’t passed that test. An example is weight control. That low-carb diets cause weight loss has been known since the 1800s. Many explanations have been proposed; not one has made correct predictions, as far as I know. In contrast, my theory of weight control led me to three new ways to lose weight (sushi, low-glycemic foods, and fructose water).

I doubt it’s a placebo effect because the sleep improvement has happened whether I expect it or not. A commenter named Paolo Paiva, after reading my posts about this, realized something similar had happened to him:

Today I told my wife how deep I had slept and connected it to the 1 tbspoon of honey and 1 tbspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with half a cup of water before bed (it tastes really good). Then I saw this post and remembered that yesterday I had had banana flour pancakes topped with honey 3 hours before bedtime!

Thanks, Paolo. May you continue to sleep well. May the rest of you sleep equally well.

Merry Christmas!

13 Responses to “Frontlines of Personal Science: Confirmation of After Dinner Sweets Effect”

  1. Brian Toomey Says:

    Merry Christmas to you, too, Seth!

    I’ve been sleeping better since adding sweets at night, similar to what you describe.

    At first I was resistant to the idea of sweets before bed because:

    1) I had been not eating after 7 or 8pm as part of an intermittent fasting condensed eating window eating routine
    2) I have historically overeaten refined sweets

    Recently, though, I’ve been doing it, having some fruit (or sweets with the Holidays) around bedtime and have been sleeping much better. I would say my rested percent had gone from 90 to 95–98, and I’ve been getting up about an hour earlier. Definitely much better.

    When I started reading this below before low blue light at night, Vitamin D in the morning, and the above my rested percent was more like 30–40%.

    I’ve also recently (2 months ago) installed blackout curtains and found that my sleep got, to my surprise slightly worse. I have 4 windows in my bedroom, and leaving one of the curtains partially open so some light can get in (there is a lot on my street) seems better than almost no light.

    Thanks, Seth!

  2. Gina Says:

    Thanks for your blog, Seth. Merry Christmas!

    I love the discoveries here, because they are inexpensive and range from easy to pleasurable.

    Lots of tasty things can be made with just fruit and sugar, why eat plain bananas and straight honey??

    Seth: to keep things simple. Simplicity will help me increase my understanding. It is much easier to know what is in a banana or honey than what is in an ordinary dessert.

  3. dearieme Says:

    From a local orchard we’ve recently bought candied pears (Comice) and plums (Edwards). They formed two of our thirteen desserts on Christmas Eve, a habit we’ve adopted from French friends. The table looks magnificent, but iron discipline is required if you are not to make a pig of yourself.

  4. August Says:

    This reminds me of Kiefer (athlete.io). His focus is mainly for bodybuilders, though I think his first book was for people looking to lose weight.
    His understanding of hormonal activity throughout the day, and his subsequent recommendations as to when to eat carbs and what type to eat coincides with yours. Now, you are eating a lot fewer carbs and eating them everyday, while Kiefer protocols are to eat a lot after training, and be low carb the rest of the time, but I think you are both tapping into the same daily hormonal cycle.

  5. Xav Says:

    I was curious to see what research had been done with fruit before bed and sleep, and found this paper : http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/20/2/169.pdf ( Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems ).

    In the study eating 2 medium kiwi fruits an hour before sleep, helped the subjects sleep better.

    Seth: Thanks, yes, I knew about that study. You are right I should give it more emphasis. It could have gone the other way (the kiwis made sleep worse) so it supports what I am saying. Two kiwi weigh about 100 g, which would contain about 4 g glucose and 4 g fructose. Not so far from the dosages that I found have worked.

  6. Walter Says:

    Seth,

    I always find your blog fascinating and informational. Along those lines I wondered if you have played with resistant starch as a food source for our microbiome? There is a lot of N=1 testing going on the FreeTheAnimal blog and the results are encouraging as a methodology to control blood sugars etc.

    Walter

  7. Seth Roberts Says:

    Walter,

    I will try resistant starch. After I have optimized my sleep without it. I wonder if the benefits claimed for it are due to better sleep. And if it promotes better sleep by being digested slowly during the night.

  8. Xav Says:

    Seth – you mentioned trying blueberries and now bananas. I wonder if some fruits are more optimal than others ?

    Here are a couple more studies regarding fruit – juice in this case – and sleep ( in case you haven’t come across them already).

    These are a little different in that in one, time of taking the juice does not seem to be controlled, in the other one serving is taken 1-2 hrs before sleep.

    1) Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133468/

    2) Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497

    Seth: In the second study the two conditions are equated for sugar content.

  9. Gabe Says:

    You wrote earlier that the total amount of sugar you consume these past few (including post-dinner and pre-bed) is about 95g.

    Some people write that they experience less of the effect of honey when they eat many non-sugary carbs throughout the day. Do you know what is the total daily number of no- sugary carbs you get these days from food (flax, starchy vegetables, etc)?

    Seth: Daily “number”? You mean number of servings? I eat 30 g ground flax per day. Maybe 1 serving of non-sweet carbs. Not much.

  10. daz Says:

    Hi Seth,

    in regards to taking honey before bed being effective…in a comment under a prev post you wrote*…
    “Two things seem to matter. 1. You must take it on an empty stomach. 2. You must not have sweets during the day”

    do you still think ‘rule’ #2 applies? & if so why do you think that may be?

    *ref: http://blog.sethroberts.net/2013/11/20/bedtime-honey-improves-sleep-1000-crazy-good-tip/#comment-1156678

    Seth: I think #2 applies — you can’t eat a lot of sweets, a few sweets make no difference — because it would raise your insulin levels. If your insulin is too high for too long it will remove sugar from your blood at night.

  11. daz Says:

    ah insulin, thx Seth,

    i was wondering what the theorised ‘mechanism’ for #2 might be…
    the only think i could think of was something to do with liver glycogen,
    but that made no sense, as i would presume that eating sucrose/glucose/fructose during the day should keep liver glycogen levels high (assuming low/depleted liver glycogen results in poor sleep)

  12. daz Says:

    …(assuming low/depleted liver glycogen results in poor sleep and ‘full’/replete liver glycogen results in ‘normal/default’ sleep)

  13. nicole Says:

    i wonder if the reason dessert developed was to give people a bit of sugar before sleep…