Friday, 30 August 2013

Sleepless Nights?

OK - you know the drill - if you aren't interested in what I have to say, scroll down to the bottom for today's dinner recipes.

For years I have suffered from insomnia, averaging 3-6 hours of sleep per night.  I tried everything - sleeping pills, a cool dark room, white noise, mediation, relaxation techniques, but nothing made a difference for any length of time.

After about eight months on the Paleo diet, while still taking sleeping pills, I started noticing a difference in my sleep.  It became easier to fall asleep, but I didn't stay asleep, waking every two hours or so.  On more and more nights I was able to fall back to sleep, waking again about two hours later.

Now, 13 months after starting Paleo, I no longer take sleeping pills of any sort and most nights I may wake up once or twice, but fall asleep again easily.  I have tried to figure out what makes the difference from night to night and, while it seems to have some relation to what I eat (or don't eat) but I haven't been able to pinpoint the exact food or combination of foods that affect my sleep.  It also seems to be related to the level of stress I am under.  Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders can cause insomnia, as can chronic diseases, heart problems - this is called Secondary Insomnia.

Research indicates Primary Insomnia is usually related to stressful events - death, job-related, relationship problems and is also generally associated with older age, female gender and a history of depression. Chronic stress makes the adrenal gland produce high levels of cortisol - the stress hormone.  Too much cortisol is not good.

What to do?
Of course, the first thing is to fix your diet to eliminate the foods that are making the inflammation created by stress worse (grains, sugar, dairy, legumes and processed foods).

Make sure you include some good carbs in the form of low starch vegetables and berries (other fruit too if you are not fructose sensitive, as I am).

Try adding a daily dose of Vitamin D to your morning routine, as there are studies that show it helps restore your sleep cycle (especially during wet winters in Vancouver).  The recommended dose varies, so you should discuss this with your doctor if you are not sure how much to take.

There are also studies that suggest taking magnesium before bed (i.e. Natural Calm - found in health food stores), or a few nuts (magnesium rich) before bed to help you fall asleep. The magnesium may cause diarrhea if you take too much - so start with a small amount to see how it affects you.  It didn't seem to help my sleep, but give it a try.

Paleo Grandad is in Kamloops helping youngest son move to the Lower Mainland and, because today is my day off - and a long weekend - time to cook.  Dinner tonight - Tandoori Chicken, with coconut/raisin cauli-rice and cabbage not-cakes.

The idea for the Tandoori Chicken comes from Nom Nom Paleo's blog the other day, but she gets her spices from Penzey's in the US and, not only do I not have any Penzeys's spices, I didn't have any tandoori spice so I looked it up and made this version from

Tandoori Spice Blend
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
 1 tsp. salt

Mix everything together until blended well.  Easy - right?

Tandoori Chicken (also easy-peasy)
Serves 2-3

2 lbs. chicken - thighs (bone-in, skin on) and two large chicken breasts (skin on) cut in half
1/2 can full fat coconut milk
1/2 (or more - to taste) of the Tandoori Spice Blend
juice from 1/2 lemon
  1. Place the chicken pieces in a medium metal or glass bowl.
  2. Pour the half can of coconut milk over the chicken.
  3. Add half the spice mixture and lemon juice to the chicken pieces and stir everything together.
  4. Cover and marinate in the fridge for up to eight hours.
  5. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Remove chicken from marinade (leaving lots on the chicken) and place on a rack on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet, skin side down.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, flip the pieces over and bake for another 20 minutes (or until the temperature inside the chicken is 165 degrees).
Cabbage Sweet Potato Not-Cakes
I got the recipe from Meatified, but didn't feel like messing with making cakes and frying them so instead I put the mixture in a 8" x 8" glass baking dish and baked it with the Tandoori chicken.

3/4 cup mashed sweet potato (about one small sweet potato)
2 cups coleslaw mix
1/4 cup almond flour
1/8 cup coconut flour
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (don't like it, don't have it, didn't use it)
1 tsp. minced garlic (like it, but it doesn't like me, so didn't use it)
Salt and pepper to taste
Coconut oil to grease pan
  1. Beat the eggs together, the eggs together, then whisk in both flours (don't worry about the lumps)
  2. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes and the salt and pepper.
  3. Add the coleslaw mix and combine well.
  4. Pour the mixture in the greased pan and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until nicely browned on top.
  5. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting serving with Tandoori Chicken.
Coconut Raisin Cauli-Rice
Serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower, "riced" using the shredder blade of your food processor
2 Tbsp. organic raisins (if you have them)
2 Tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 Tbsp. toasted, shredded organic coconut
1/2 cup of full fat coconut milk
Coconut oil
  1. Melt about two tablespoons of coconut oil in a large skillet.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the shredded cauliflower and stir to coat with the coconut oil.
  3. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the coconut milk and combine, cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the raisin, toasted pine nuts and toasted coconut.
  6. Mix well and serve.

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