Food & Nutrition, Living Healthy
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How Diet Affects Your Sleep

man and woman sitting outside eating at night

Eating well and logging enough sleep are both essential for good health, but what you might not realize is that diet and sleep are closely connected — and could ultimately have an impact on overall health and wellbeing.

Both adults and kids who skimp on sleep tend to be heavier than their well-rested counterparts. In fact, one ongoing study found that women who typically logged just five hours of sleep per night were 30 percent more likely to gain 30 pounds compared to women who regularly snoozed for seven hours or more.

So how can you get your diet and sleep in sync? Here are three things you should know about the relationship between your food choices and your slumber, and how they can help you eat smarter and sleep sounder.

Coffee Isn’t the Only Thing That Keeps You Up

You know consuming caffeine before bed can leave you tossing and turning. But other foods and drinks can mess with your sleep schedule as well. Although alcohol might make it easier to doze off at first, research shows it reduces deep, restorative rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which can lead to daytime drowsiness and trouble concentrating when you need to be focused.

Eating foods that are fatty or greasy before bed can also spell trouble in dreamland too, suggests the National Sleep Foundation. These foods tend to take longer to digest than lighter fare, forcing your stomach to stay awake and work longer while your body is trying to rest.

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Certain Foods Can Help You Sleep Better, Too

Luckily, eating right can yield a sounder night’s sleep. Noshing on foods that contain the amino acid, tryptophan — like turkey, eggs and nuts — prompts your body to release the hormone serotonin, which findings suggest can help promote sleep. Starchy carbohydrates, like a banana or toast, can have a similar effect.

If you can’t fall asleep without something sweet, try a bowl of cherries. They’re a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Not Just What You Eat, But When You Eat

Between school plays, football games and homework the average time Americans eat dinner is increasingly occurring later in the afternoon. Eating late can result in fluctuations to your normal sleep pattern, including having a harder time falling asleep and waking up more frequently during the night. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that eating less during the night hours could decrease these symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Allowing at least four hours between when you eat your last meal to the time you go to bed can help ensure you get a good nights’ sleep.

Struggling to get Zzzs could be a sign of a more complex condition. Schedule an appointment so you can discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

Marygrace Taylor

Marygrace Taylor

Marygrace Taylor is is an award-winning health, wellness, and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Prevention, and Women’s Health. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtylr, or at marygracetaylor.com.

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Filed under: Food & Nutrition, Living Healthy

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Marygrace Taylor

Marygrace Taylor is is an award-winning health, wellness, and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Prevention, and Women’s Health. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtylr, or at marygracetaylor.com.

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