Nutritional tips for sleep deprived parents

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

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We’re delighted to share this guest blog with you from the fabulous team at Fig and Bloom.

For all the joys that children bring into our lives, sleep deprivation certainly isn’t one of them. Those first newborn weeks of scanty sleep can feel like years, and for parents of poor sleepers it literally can be years. As well as trailing around in a jet-lagged-type daze, interrupted sleep on a regular basis can affect our health too.

Tired people are more likely to reach for the carbs, sugary snacks and drinks, or caffeine because these provide us with quick and easy energy. However, it is short-lived and always followed by an energy dip leaving us feeling tired and irritable, until we have another easy-energy snack or drink, and so the cycle continues.

Research has shown that sleep loss may put us at an increased risk of certain illnesses. As well as reducing our sensitivity to insulin (the hormone needed to deliver blood sugar to cells so they can convert it into energy), restricted sleep also directly affects levels of hormones involved in our appetite regulation and energy expenditure – whether you’re a poor sleeping adult or child you may be at an increased risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. 1, 2, 3

We at Fig & Bloom have five kids between us so we know what interrupted sleep feels like. We have also battled the tiredness and energy cravings and come out the other side with five simple top tips to help keep you awake until pyjama time comes around again (assuming you’ve made it out of them in the first place)…

  1. Avoid starting your day with caffeine – before you shoot this down as impossible, just give it a go. Caffeine affects blood sugar levels, so it is not the best way to start the day. Have a mug of herbal tea with fresh lemon or mint, or freshly made vegetable juice mixed with the same amount of water and a squeeze of lime, then try to hold off as long as you can until you have your caffeine, if you still need it. A lovely coffee substitute would be…our Energy Chai (see recipe below)
  1. Step away from the (often sugar-loaded) breakfast cereals and toast and opt for a whole, savoury breakfast. Wholegrains, protein and healthy fats all help to keep blood sugar levels steady and provide slow-release energy. Avocado and eggs are perfect examples. An easy on-the-go option would be our egg cups Or try poached eggs on wilted spinach, an omelette packed with vegetables or mashed avocado on wholegrain toast with fresh tomatoes and chilli flakes. If you’re not that hungry a boiled egg dipped in a little black pepper, pinch of sea salt and turmeric should also help to start you on a steady path for the day.
  1. For lunch go easy on the portion size and carbs to avoid hitting an energy slump mid-afternoon, which is the sleepiest time of day for many. Swap a sandwich for a salad, soup, low-carb wrap or split your lunch into two smaller meals in the afternoon.
  1. As dull as it sounds, avoid the sugary snacks and be aware of otherwise ‘healthy’ looking foods that are in fact high in sugar (fruit-flavoured yoghurts; health bars; tropical or dried fruit). Opt for a small handful of raw nuts, a small salad pot or buy some plain yoghurt and add your own fresh fruit.
  1. Keeping hydrated is important for many health reasons and it is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to help you stay awake and away from the sweet snacks and caffeine too. On average aim for roughly 1.5 litres/day, more if you exercise. If you prefer bubbly water, add a squeeze of lemon or lime if it makes it easier for you to stay hydrated.

If you would like to know more about the main underlying causes of tiredness and how to help tackle them through targeted nutrition, then why not come to our Energy Boost nutrition and cookery workshop in North London on 29 September (full details As well as an informative nutrition talk we will cook up an energising feast for you to enjoy!

Energy Chai


Serves 1


Just steep the tea sachet in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then remove and add the almond milk and coconut oil. It’s deliciously refreshing.

About Fig & Bloom

Founded by Stephanie, a registered nutritional therapist and Dorothy, a chef and caterer; we use science-based nutrition and culinary creativity to create fabulous tasting food and help our clients to nourish themselves easily, effectively and deliciously. We don’t talk diets; only fresh, vibrant and wholesome food and nutrition that works for each individual client, their specific health needs, and their lifestyle.

We work with individuals and corporate clients, and offer private consultations, talks and workshops, events, brand/product development, nutrition insights and recipe development. | Instagram, Facebook & Twitter: @figandbloom


  1. Copinschi et al (2014) The important role of sleep in metabolism Frontiers of Hormone Research 42 59-72
  2. Leproult R Van Cauter E (2010) Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism Endocrine Development 17 11-21
  3. Van Cauter E Spiegel K Tasali E and Leproult R (2008) Metabolic consequences of sleep and sleep loss Sleep Medicine Suppl 1 S23-S28