The Effects of Food and Diet on Your Sleep

Food and Sleep

Getting a full seven to nine hours of sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy diet. However, the fuel you put in your body can affect the quality and the amount of sleep you get. It’s not just about what you eat but when you eat it. The human body relies on predictable patterns of behaviour to time the sleep cycle. There’s not a whole lot that’s more predictable than the need for food. You can use the timing of your meals and your diet to enhance the quality of your sleep and, in so doing, you’re supporting your ability to make better food choices.  

Timing of Your Meals

Before we jump into carbs and proteins, let's take a quick look at the circadian rhythms and meal timing. The circadian rhythms are a number of biological and physiological processes that control many of the cycles that regularly repeat in a 24-hour period. Both eating and sleeping fall into that category so both rely on and yet also influence the circadian rhythms. 

These rhythms, in part, use predictable patterns of behaviour to regulate the timing of repeating cycles. Meals eaten at approximately the same time and spaced in regular intervals throughout the day helps regulate the timing of the sleep cycle. Sporadic meals can alter the release of key sleep hormones like melatonin. If you can follow a fairly regular meal schedule, you’ll be helping yourself out when it’s time for bed. 

Carbs and Protein

A well-balanced diet includes carbs and proteins and both are essential to healthy sleep. Research has shown that carb-rich meals can help you fall asleep faster. That doesn’t mean you need to carb load right before bed because indigestion can take away any carb-related benefits. But, an evening meal that consists of nutrient-rich carbs can shorten the time it takes you to fall asleep. 

Protein is also an essential ingredient to better sleep. Proteins have been shown to reduce night waking. Once you fall asleep, you tend to stay asleep. A balanced dinner that includes protein and carbs can be key to that full night’s rest. 

Watch Out for Food-Related Sleep Disruptors

We’ve all experienced the heartburn that comes with a high-fat, late night meal. Food can ruin your sleep if you’re not careful. Skip the fried foods and watch out for anything heavy or acidic. And, of course, don’t forget about stimulants. Caffeine blocks sleep hormones so do not consume it for three or four hours before bed. Some people find that it stays in their systems even longer so don’t be surprised if you sleep better when you cut the caffeine even earlier in the day.  

Build Better Eating and Sleeping Habits

Food can either help your hinder your sleep success. But good sleep also requires a healthy sleep environment and habits.

  • Sleep Comfort: The bedroom needs to be a sleep sanctuary where your body can fully relax. If aches and pains plague you, take a good look at your mattress. Your preferred sleep position may not work well with the type of mattress you have. Make sure it fully supports your weight and sleep style

  • Consistent Bed and Wake-Up Time: The body loves a predictable schedule so help it out by going to bed and waking up at the same time every night and morning.

  • Go Outside: Natural light suppresses sleep hormones so make sure you get adequate exposure during the day so that sleep hormones are fully prepped for release at night.

Conclusion

Food definitely has an influence on your sleep cycle. But, sleep also helps you stay on track for healthy eating. Without enough sleep, your hunger and satiety hormones get out of balance. When sleep-deprived, you feel hungrier but less full when you eat. As you develop a diet that supports your need for sleep, you’re also giving yourself the ability to make better food choices.  When you fuel better sleep, you’re supporting the healthy lifestyle you want to maintain.

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