Sleep & FastTrack

4th October 2023

Did you know that according to a recent study more than a third of New Zealanders are sleep deprived, meaning they get less than 7 hours sleep a night!!

Sleep is important for many aspects of our overall well-being. Especially considering that when you have a good night’s sleep you often tend to make better decisions the next day. Like choosing healthier food options, or deciding to take the stairs instead of the lift. However, when you don’t have a good sleep you can tend to go for the easier options e.g. eating convenient processed foods and taking the lift. You could be doing everything right in terms of exercising, eating well, managing your stress and doing well at work, however, if you are not getting quality sleep you are unlikely to reap any of the benefits from all the good things you are doing!

When we sleep, our brains act like road workers who come out at night to fill in potholes and repave roads before the morning. Our bodies need sleep to rest and recharge. Without a sufficient amount of sleep, around seven to eight hours, we increase our risk for developing health conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and mental health conditions. Lots of annoying potholes have an impact on our wellbeing

There are a number of lifestyle factors that if we make small changes can help improve our sleep.

  • Stick to one coffee per day, before mid-day
  • Add movement into every day (walking on your lunch break, gym, yoga, etc)
  • Reduce alcohol intake, have a number of alcohol free days each week
  • Prioritise time to relax and wind down on the regular
  • Go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time each day
  • Eating more wholefoods and less processed foods

Lack of sleep can also disrupt a couple of important hormones called ‘leptin’ and ‘ghrelin’. We like to think of ‘lovely leptin’ that tells our body it is full and ‘gnarly ghrelin’ tells us we are hungry. When we are sleep deprived these hormones can often get confused and we can often end up eating in excess and making poor food choices.

Incorporating more plant based kai can help to improve overall sleep quality in a few different ways:

  • Plant based kai approaches usually limit the amount of refined sugars you eat because you are eating more whole foods like vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Research has shown that those who eat more high sugar foods experience broken sleep and are less likely to spend enough time in ‘deep’ sleep which is our most restorative sleep. Sugar is linked to increased levels of inflammation in the body, which may lead to chronic pain that hinders sleep. Sugar can also cause a spike in insulin levels from the pancreas and instead of shutting down and resting and digesting it can keep you awake.


  • Reducing the amount of saturated fat within your diet. As mentioned, the key thing we want to be doing in the evening is allowing our body to slow down and rest. Therefore, if we eat a meal that is high in saturated fat this causes our digestive system to be working hard to break the food down throughout the night and this can interfere with your ability to relax and sleep. One of the food groups that is highest in saturated fat is animal products such as red meat and dairy, so a plant based kai approach will be easier on your digestion and therefore helpful for sleep.


  • Plant based kai approaches are high in complex carbohydrates and wholegrains such as quinoa, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, black rice and wild rice as well as legumes, leafy greens and seeds. These foods are good sources of something called ‘tryptophan’. What the …? To put it simply tryptophan is a building block to help increase the production of serotonin and melatonin within our bodies. Both serotonin and melatonin are important hormones that help regulate our sleep cycle.


  • Melatonin follows our circadian rhythm in our body, meaning that we have low levels of it during the day when it is light and then our levels increase in the evening in the dark to tell our body it’s time to sleep. Therefore, if we can help increase our levels of melatonin in the evening through the kai we eat we are going to help improve our overall sleep quality and be happier humans in the morning.


  • Serotonin is converted to melatonin and helps to synchronise the sleep-wake cycle to the natural day-night cycle. Serotonin receptors are found in various regions of the brain that are involved in sleep regulation. Adequate serotonin levels help in maintaining stable and uninterrupted sleep throughout the night

FastTrack- Kai a nuku is refined sugar free, it has saturated fat only in the plant form of coconut and it includes all of the plant centered food that help towards improving your overall sleep quality. If you have been struggling with your sleep, come join our FastTrack whanau. We often get told by our FastTrack members that they can’t believe how much better they are sleeping!