Believe it or Not, Food and Sleep are Related
Food and sleep may seem separate, critical parts of life; but they actually have a deeply intertwined relationship. Diet and nutrition may have an impact on the quality of your sleep, and particular meals and beverages might make it easier or more difficult to get the rest you need.
Getting adequate sleep, on the other hand, is linked to maintaining healthy body weight and promoting digestion and gut health which, as we know, links to pretty much every other bodily function. Recognizing the links between sleep and nutrition opens up possibilities for improving both to eat better, sleep better, and live a healthier life.
- Food and sleep have a complex relationship
- Certain foods make it much more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Changing your diet can dramatically improve the quality of sleep you get
Foods to Avoid
According to the National Sleep Foundation, diets high in saturated fat and poor in fiber may reduce the amount of deep, restorative sleep you enjoy. You may wake up more frequently if you eat too many sweets. And certain meals and beverages consumed close to bedtime might also contribute to poor sleep. Studying the relationship between food and sleep has given us many things to consider. For example, if you're not able to sleep, or get good quality sleep, your diet could be a major factor. Here are some foods that might be impacting you:
1. High-protein or fatty foods
Going to bed too soon after eating a steak dinner or other high-protein food might cause sleep disturbances since your stomach will feel uncomfortably full. Digestion naturally slows during sleep in order to devote energy to other systems, and a full stomach can worsen disruptive effects on sleep.
2. Spicy Foods
Spicy meals can produce unpleasant heartburn, making it difficult to lie down comfortably, and making it much harder to fall asleep. Heartburn can exacerbate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by irritating your airway with backed-up acid. Spicy meals can also raise your body temperature, making it difficult for your body to calm down enough to fall asleep. Additionally, being too warm in bed can also disturb your sleep patterns.
Because caffeine is a stimulant meant to keep you alert, drinking it late in the day has long been known to be a possible sleep disruptor for many people. Caffeine effects last for about 6 hours, so it is recommended to get your last cup before late afternoon. Caffeine may also be found in other foods, such as chocolate and even ice cream, so, as always, read your labels carefully!
While relaxing with a glass of wine or a beer after dinner might be relaxing, it's not so relaxing when you're getting ready to sleep. When the effects of alcohol wear off, you'll probably find yourself waking up unexpectedly and finding it hard to go back asleep. Alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of OSA as well, so try going alcohol-free.
According to a 2016 study, people who consume a high-sugar diet sleep less deeply and are more restless at night. Too much sugar causes a desire to eat later in the day since blood sugar levels are zigzagging out of control. This has a negative effect on sleep, and your interrupted sleep will result in an even worse sugar craving the next day.
Creating a healthy food and sleep relationship
It is a good rule of thumb to not consume any of these types of food within two hours of going to sleep. To obtain the best relationship between your food and sleep, there are a few items that are recommended:
- Foods high in tryptophan have been known to enhance sleep. These include beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, cottage cheese, and poultry. Tryptophan helps your body make the neurotransmitter serotonin, the “happy hormone.” While this chemical has many impacts on our bodies, one of them is preparing for sleep.
- Lettuce: Oddly enough lettuce has been shown to help induce sleep.
- Slow-release carbs: Whole grain bread or oatmeal are both foods that counteract spiking blood sugar levels which can disrupt sleep.
Having a balanced diet is proven to optimize the relationship between food and sleep. There are many types of diets that can provide nutritional balance, and some have been studied more thoroughly in terms of how they impact sleep. The Mediterranean Diet, for example, has been shown to promote heart health and sleep quality by being plant-based and containing lean meats and high-fiber meals. Reduced salt and saturated fats, as well as a concentration on whole foods high in fiber, potassium, and magnesium, are part of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet was created to lower blood pressure, but study has shown that those who adhere to it consistently sleep better.
Poor sleeping habits can lead to sleep disorders, these can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. Getting quality sleep and eating good food is a cycle that is not always easy to do, but following these guidelines may be able to help you get the sleep you've been missing out on.
Written by Kiana St. Onge