Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Your Eating Habits Are Affecting Your Sleep

Posted by Paisley Hansen on Jun 30, 2021 1:11:00 AM

Family smiling around a healthy meal in kitchen

It's no secret that what you eat affects your weight, mental capacity, and physical abilities, so it should come as no surprise that it also influences how well you sleep. While some sleep factors are obvious, such as not drinking coffee right before bed, other bedtime diet tips go by the wayside. Not only does your food choice affect your sleep quality, but they’re also a determining factor as to whether you'll have trouble falling asleep. By learning what’s best to eat and what foods to avoid, you'll be able to get the sleep your body has been yearning for. Here are some ways your diet is interfering with a good night's rest.  


How Nutrition and Sleep Are Related

Waking up after getting very little sleep leaves you feeling tired and irritable. These feelings are the result of your body being unable to process insulin, which then causes your body to store fat at higher rates. This can cause you to gain weight even if you haven't changed your exercise routine or diet. Lack of sleep also affects the hormones ghrelin and leptin.

Leptin lets your body know when you're full, and ghrelin tells you when you're hungry. This hormonal imbalance causes you to feel hungry even after you've eaten, which then results in overeating. The dreaded sleepless night can be changed by what you're eating. Your body thrives from nutrients and protein, such as isolate protein. Consuming protein at night has the following benefits: advances muscle growth, quickens exercise recovery time, improves athletic performance, aids in weight loss, and promotes better sleep. Protein contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps with the production of serotonin and melatonin.

Together, these hormones encourage sleep. Sleep and nutrition are a cycle. If you eat healthier, you'll sleep better, and the cycle will continue. However, if you have a poor diet, your ability to sleep will suffer. So, what should you be eating? Read on to find out!


What a Sleep-Promoting Diet Looks Like

If you want better sleep, you have to adjust your diet by adding fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains. If this sounds similar to a weight loss diet, it's because it's the same as what successful dieters use. This is why it's referred to as a lifestyle change. You have to keep at it to reap the rewards. Don't eat large meals before bed, but you shouldn't go to bed hungry either or your hunger pangs may keep you awake. Choose a light snack to hold you over until morning. Two sleep-inducing options are bananas and berries.

Drinking tart cherry juice has also been proven to increase your sleep time and efficiency. The best way to get yourself accustomed to eating healthier is to make your own meals. By doing so, you'll know what ingredients are being used, and you can control when you eat as well as the portion sizes. Try to increase your daily water intake. If you're feeling thirsty, you're probably already slightly dehydrated. By staying hydrated, you can avoid bouts of sluggishness and disorientation.

If you're tired during the day, you're more likely to take a nap, which can disturb your ability to sleep at night. By drinking water, you're ensuring two things. First, your mouth and nose won't get dry. If they’re dry, your chances of falling into a deep sleep are greatly hindered. Second, being dehydrated can cause muscle cramps, which are a painful way to be woken up. Drink a lot of water over the course of the day to maintain balance. If you wait until right before bed, you’ll be up all night using the bathroom.


What Vitamins and Mineral To Include

If you're trying to get a solid night's rest, there are several vitamins and minerals you should include in your diet. Vitamin B, which is found in salmon, chicken breast and bananas, produces serotonin. Calcium, which is found in milk and yogurt, naturally calms the body. If you suffer from restless leg syndrome, adding iron can help. Clams and oysters are high in iron. Oysters are an extra helpful choice because they contain zinc as well. It's important to ensure you're getting enough zinc because a deficiency is linked to insomnia. 


What To Avoid

Stay away from foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates. Anything that makes your blood sugar spike can negatively impact your sleep schedule. Added sugar makes you go from having tons of energy to having none. If you eat natural sugars and whole grains instead, you'll have long-lasting energy because your body takes longer to break these foods down. Maintaining energy during the day keeps you going until you're ready to sleep for the night. 

Don't eat anything that gives you heartburn when it's within three hours of your bedtime. Having heartburn hinders your ability to sleep, and laying down increases the unpleasantness of acid reflux. Spicy foods are even worse because they give you heartburn and increase your core temperature. When you sleep, your temperature naturally drops. Thus, this abnormal increase can make it difficult to sleep.

As far as drinks go, you should limit alcohol and caffeine. It's wise not to ingest any from late afternoon through bedtime. Alcohol can cause snoring, which is detrimental to good sleep. Although alcohol helps you to sleep well at first, it affects how well you sleep later on in the night. It confuses your brain, which keeps you in lighter sleep stages. You’ll then feel exhausted in the morning because you didn't get the deep sleep your body needed. Consuming drinks that contain caffeine can give you a burst of energy, but this extra stamina is useless at night when you need to sleep. Caffeine makes you feel alert by blocking certain chemicals in your brain that tell you you're tired. It can stay in your blood for nearly six hours after you consume it. Decide when you should stop drinking any caffeinated drinks based on your own bedtime schedule.


When To Eat

The times when you eat have a lot to do with your ability to sleep. Eat nutritious meals and healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your energy level stabilized. It's vital to eat breakfast because it gives you the energy to start your day. It signifies to your body that it's time to get up and go. It's generally a good idea to start with bigger meals at the beginning of the day and end with smaller meals. 


It's clear that nutrition affects how well you sleep and getting enough rest is important to your overall health. Now that you have an idea of what you need to do to improve your own health, it's time to take a look at yourself. You may need to change some of the unhealthy eating habits you're used to. Although habits can be difficult to break, it’s worth it when the outcome is a healthier version of yourself.

Food and what we consume can play a massive role in our sleep quantity and quality. If you are struggling with regulating your slumbers, there are many steps that you can take in your daily life by altering your diet and nutrition. You can take back control of your snoozing and enjoy better sleep if you find the right adjustments to your diet, so don’t wait another moment suffering through sleep.

Good quality sleep may seem difficult to come by, but tweaking your diet is one of the very best ways to achieve this. Avoiding the food that keeps you awake and restless, and adding foods that promote a healthy sleep cycle will have you falling asleep peacefully in no time.

For all your sleep troubles, Alaska Sleep Clinic has a blog with answers you are looking for to your health questions. Sign up to receive ASC's daily sleep blog below. Our website received over 5 million visits last year alone, making one of the top 5 sites in the world for sleep education.

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