What you eat and drink can affect how well you sleep, and how well you sleep affects what you choose to eat and drink. Creating a healthy eating-sleeping cycle can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.
How poor sleep affects your food choices
When you are tired, you are more likely to eat more than you need to and make poor food choices, which can lead to weight gain.
Not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep is associated with increased snacking and irregular meals. You are also more likely to eat fewer vegetables and instead opt for high-fat, high-sugar foods. In fact, the higher the calorie the food is, the more appealing it is to a sleep-deprived brain! It is not surprising then that there is a link between poor sleep and obesity.
Regular physical activity during the day can help improve your sleep.
How your food and drink affect your sleep?
Researchers have found that eating and drinking poor quality and highly processed carbohydrates, such as noodles, sweets, energy or sugary drinks, are associated with poor sleep quality. Eating more high-quality carbohydrates (such as whole grains), fish, colourful vegetables and following a Mediterranean-style eating plancan improve sleep quality.
Other studies have found that foods containing tryptophan (an amino acid) can help synthesize serotonin and melatonin and may help to promote sleep.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can have a negative effect on your sleep by making it harder for you to fall asleep. This delay in getting to sleep can shorten your overall sleep time.
Alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep in the short term but, over the night, it inhibits the sleep process and can prevent you from getting deep, restful sleep.
What food and drink will help me to sleep well?Based on current evidence, eating the following foods daily can improve your chances of a good night’s sleep:
- Follow a Mediterranean eating plan, which includes plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, fish, olive oil and less red meat and processed foods.
- Include protein foods that contain tryptophan, such as chicken, eggs, cheese, fish, peanuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, milk, turkey, tofu and other soy products.
What should I eat or drink less to sleep well?
Reduce your intake of these foods and drinks to help improve the quality of your sleep:
- highly processed carbohydrates, such as refined noodles, sweets, energy or sugary drinks
- spicy foods, especially if you’re prone to heartburn
- caffeine within 6–8 hours of your bedtime; this includes coffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate (including hot chocolate drinks)
- too much liquid just before bedtime (it makes you wake often to go to the washroom).
Shift work, sleep and diet
If you are a shift worker, eat your main meal before you go to work and have a light snack when you get home. Take healthy snacks to work with you and drink plenty of water and limit caffeine intake.
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- The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain Nature Communications. 2013; 4:2259
- Effects of diet on sleep quality Adv Nutr. 2016 Sep;7(5):938-949.
- Diet promotes sleep duration and quality Nutrition Research. 2012 May;32(5):309–319.
- Sleep and caffeine Sleep Education, US, 2013
- Alcohol and Sleep: Effects on Normal Sleep Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013 Apr;37(4):539-49.
- What is tryptophan? HealthLine, 2018