Alaska Sleep Education Center

The Connection Between Sleep Quality and Diet

Posted by Mikki Mills on Jul 6, 2020 6:20:00 AM

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It's no secret that you feel better when you get a good night's sleep, but what many may not realize is that sleep quality can have a wide ranging impact on many areas of health. Not only can a lack of sleep leave you feeling groggy or out of it the next day, but over time lack of sleep could result in serious health issues like depression, heart disease and diabetes. Even though it may not always be easy to get 8 hours every night, there can be a lot of benefits to taking your sleep seriously. If you're looking for more reasons to hit the hay early tonight, and ways to sleep better when you do, here are some things to think about.

What You Eat Affects Sleep and Vice Versa

Your diet and your ability to sleep well at night are heavily connected. This is in part because your diet affects your brain activity, which is directly related to your ability to nod off at night. The more healthy and nutritious foods you eat, like salads and protein powder, the better able your brain will be able to function and produce the necessary hormones for good sleep. Without enough healthy foods, your brain will often be stuck overcompensating, and may end up producing hormones that actually make it difficult to sleep instead. Sometimes, even if you think you are eating a healthy and sleep-supporting diet, the reality is that you could still be sabotaging your sleep without even realizing it.

What To Avoid and What To Eat for a Great Night's Sleep

When it comes to eating the right kind of diet to support a good night's sleep, there can be a lot of foods you're better off avoiding. Some of the biggest culprits behind sleep disruption are caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is disruptive because it stimulates your nervous system. While this can be great early in the day when you need to wake up and get going, it can obliterate your ability to rest deeply at night. Caffeine will generally work its way out of your system within several hours, so a morning cup of joe might not be a big deal, but drinking caffeine later in the day, whether it's in a coffee or a can of soda, may not be wise if you're trying to improve your sleep.

Although many think that a glass of wine is a great way to relax at the end of the day, the truth is that if you drink too much, it could end up keeping you awake all night. This is due to the fact that alcohol disrupts sleep cycles, and the brain's production of hormones that help you sleep. So, while a drink or two might not totally prevent you from falling asleep, you're most likely better off skipping a nightcap if you really want to rest deeply.

Beyond caffeine and alcohol, greasy and fried foods, especially late at night, can keep you awake, as can foods with too much sugar. Greasy foods are detrimental to sleep because they cause your digestive system to work harder to process them, and they can also causePretty woman presenting a cloud of healthy nutritional vegetables concept discomfort through things like bloating and indigestion, which can keep you awake. Sugar tends to lead to spikes in blood sugar and energy levels, which then crash. When your blood sugar is continually rising and crashing, it puts a lot of stress on your body, and can stop it from generating the right amounts of hormones for deep sleep. Not only that, but it can throw off your body's natural sleep cycles, as well.

Even though there are many foods that can be disruptive to your ability to sleep, the good news is that there are many foods that can be beneficial for sleep, too. One great food for sleep is berries, as well as cherry juice. What is so great about berries and cherry juice is that they contain melatonin, which is a hormone your brain needs for quality sleep. Not only that, but cherry juice in particular can be great for reducing inflammation, which can keep you awake. Turkey is another sleep-supporting food, due in large part to the tryptophan that it contains. If eating turkey isn't your thing, there are many teas, like chamomile and lavender that can be great for inducing calm and supporting sleep, too.

Additionally, the kinds of foods that you eat throughout the day can also have a significant impact on how well you sleep at night. Generally foods that cause inflammation in your body in any way, like high levels of salt, sugar, and grease will cause your body to work harder to process them, which will ultimately keep you up later at night. By eating foods that heal your body, like fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens and lean protein, you can help ensure that your body has what it needs to function properly and produce the hormones you need to sleep well.

What Time You Eat Matters Too

In addition to paying attention to what you eat, you also need to think about when you're eating if you want to optimize your ability to sleep deeply. What time you eat matters because digesting food is an energy-intensive process for your body. When your body is working hard, it can make it much more difficult for it to go into sleep mode, which can lead to you tossing and turning, even if it's way past your bedtime. Not only that, but eating at irregular intervals throughout the day can mess with your body's natural rhythms, which can make it hard for you to wind down at night.

One of the best ways to avoid having your eating schedule affect your sleep is to try intermittent fasting. This is a form of dieting where you only eat through restricted periods throughout the day. The most commonly done interval is a 16:8 interval, where you eat for an 8 hour period throughout the day, and then refrain from eating for the other 16. When you do this, you can ensure that you're only eating through the more active parts of your day, and that your body has plenty of time to digest your food and recover. Also, if intermittent fasting seems too strict, there can still be many benefits from stopping eating at least an hour before you go to bed.

Some Final Words

Most are aware that getting a good night's sleep can make a significant difference in how they feel, but they may not realize how big of an impact their eating habits have on their ability to fall asleep at night. However, by doing things like avoiding sleep-disruptors like caffeine and alcohol and also paying attention to the times you. are eating, you can help improve your sleep quality, and your overall health, too.

A 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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Topics: diet, sleep patterns, getting beter sleep

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