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    General Health
    1234 · 20 min read

    Sleep and Diet: How what you eat can affect your sleep quality

    'You are what you eat' might hold more truth than you may think. It's widely understood that diet plays a pivotal role in our overall health, but its specific impact on our sleep quality often goes unnoticed. The truth is, some foods can help you to get a restful night’s sleep, while others might disrupt your nightly rest. In this article, we will explore this connection between sleep and food, presenting clear insights into which foods may aid your sleep, and which foods may disrupt your night.

    Man sleeping next to an open fridge with lots of food inside it

    What foods help you sleep?

    Diet plays a critical role in determining the quality of our sleep. While every individual may have unique sensitivities and reactions to specific foods, several general dietary recommendations can support better sleep. Here are some foods that are commonly considered beneficial for promoting sleep:

    • Cherries

    • Kiwis

    • Fatty Fish

    • Nuts

    • Dairy

    • Whole Grains

    • Lettuce

    • Chamomile Tea

    • Bananas

    • Poultry

    • Passionflower Tea

    • Dark Chocolate

    Is an increased consumption of unhealthy food associated with poor sleep quality?

    A common idea about diet and sleep is that if you eat unhealthy food then you will get a bad night's sleep. This may not be the case as short-term consumption of a more unhealthy diet does not appear to significantly impact sleep duration or the perceived quality of sleep (Brandão et al, 2023). Problems with sleep and poor diet may arise after an extended period of poor eating, alongside other symptoms of poor health.

    Can eating food at night negatively affect sleep quality?

    Nighttime food consumption appears to negatively impact sleep quality in healthy individuals. Specifically, eating close to the time of sleep, such as dinner or a late snack, is associated with poorer sleep quality. In short, eating food, particularly those with higher fat and caloric content, during the evening and close to bedtime may compromise sleep quality in healthy adults (Crispim et al, 2011). Despite this apparent evidence, further research is required to provide more clarity on the relationship between food intake and sleep.

    Can higher protein diets improve sleep quality?

    There is limited evidence to suggest that consuming a higher protein diet may improve sleep quality (Parag et al, 2021). Despite this, some evidence suggests that this could be the case in people who are obese or overweight. This could be because of the relationship between protein and appetite regulation, or due to the fact that protein can help regulate blood sugar levels.

    Can insufficient protein intake impair sleep quality?

    Yes, insufficient protein intake can impair sleep quality. The foods people consume play a role not just in daytime wakefulness but also in determining the quality of sleep. It's indicated that the balance and type of macronutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, have a significant influence on sleep. Specifically, not consuming enough protein may detrimentally affect sleep quality (Sejbuk et al, 2022).

    Can eating food at times outside of our circadian rhythm lead to poor digestion and poor sleep quality?

    The circadian rhythm, often referred to as the "body clock," is a natural, internal system that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and other physiological processes. It repeats roughly every 24 hours and is driven by the circadian clock located in the brain. Eating food at times outside of our circadian rhythm can potentially lead to poor sleep quality. Ensuring that meals are timed appropriately can be a beneficial approach to improving sleep (Pattnaik et al, 2022)

    Is the consumption of healthy foods associated with better sleep quality?

    Yes, the consumption of healthy foods is associated with better sleep quality. Evidence linking dietary habits to sleep quality found that those who consumed healthier foods generally reported better sleep quality. On the contrary, a higher intake of processed foods and foods rich in free sugars was linked with poorer sleep features (Godos et al, 2021). Despite the apparent evidence, further research is required. While there is a clear association between diet and sleep quality, the current evidence does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship. 

    Is a low intake of vegetables associated with poor sleep quality?

    Yes, a low intake of vegetables is associated with poor sleep quality. The study found that poor sleep quality was significantly linked to lower consumption of vegetables after accounting for potentially confounding factors like age, body mass index, physical activity, depression score, employment status, alcohol intake, and smoking status (Katagiri et al, 2014).

    Is a high intake of confectionery associated with poor sleep quality?

    Yes, a high intake of confectionery is associated with poor sleep quality. Poor sleep quality was significantly linked to higher consumption of confectionery after adjusting for potential confounding factors. Other dietary habits and factors that were connected to poor sleep quality include a high intake of energy drinks, and sugar-sweetened beverages (Katagiri et al, 2014).

    Is better diet quality significantly related to better sleep quality?

    Yes, better diet quality is significantly related to better sleep quality. The total score of CHDI (a measure of diet quality) was significantly higher in people with good sleep quality compared to the poor sleep quality group. Elements of a good diet that are significantly associated with sleep quality were food variety, fruits, fish, shellfish, and mollusc consumption (Wu et al, 2019).

    Can consuming a high-GI meal promote sleep onset?

    GI stands for glycaemic index. High GI foods include carbohydrates like white rice, potatoes and white bread. The study indicates that dietary patterns favouring high carbohydrate intakes are associated with reduced sleep onset latency which means quicker sleep onset, and increased REM sleep. This suggests that a diet higher in carbohydrates may potentially help you to fall asleep quicker (St-Onge et al, 2016).

    Can diet components directly affect sleep?

    Some dietary components or their metabolites have been experimentally shown to be beneficial for sleep. However, the relationship between the consumption of specific foods and sleep wellness is complex, due to the intricate composition of foods and the varying absorptive and metabolic abilities of individuals. While there's a belief in the potential of diet management to enhance sleep, many of the current claims are based on observational or cross-sectional studies, which often have limited sample sizes, and results from various studies can be conflicting (Zhao et al, 2020).

    Are foods that facilitate the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin helpful in promoting sleep?

    Yes, foods that facilitate the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin are helpful in promoting sleep. One key element of food in terms of helping sleep is tryptophan, an amino acid that serves as a precursor to serotonin, which in turn can be converted to melatonin. Both serotonin and melatonin play crucial roles in the regulation of mood, calmness, and sleep. The presence of tryptophan in food can lead to increased production of serotonin, promoting calmness and drowsiness (Zeng et al, 2014).

    Sources

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    Blog author

    Scott Weaver

    Scott is an experienced and professional content writer who works exclusively for UK Meds.

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