How your diet can impact your sleep

diet and sleep

Did you know that what you eat during the day may be impacting how well you sleep at night? Our diet and nutrition can impact nearly all areas of our health and wellbeing. The foods and drinks we consume can either help us sleep more soundly or they can disrupt our sleep and exacerbate health issues that make sleep challenging.


Foods that may help you sleep better

It may come as no surprise that foods that are linked to overall good health benefits are also closely linked to healthy sleep.

  • Foods with tryptophan: Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that must be obtained through our diet and plays a role in the production of melatonin and increases serotonin levels. Tryptophan is often credited for that sleepy feeling you get after eating turkey on Thanksgiving, but it is also found in nuts, seeds, bananas, honey, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Complex carbohydrates: When it comes to carbs, you’ll want to focus on whole-grain breads, pastas, cereals, and brown rice. However, simple carbohydrates like white breads and pastas and baked goods like cookies and pastries can reduce serotonin levels and don’t promote sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
  • Herbal teas: Chamomile or peppermint teas can be great options for an evening beverage. Herbal teas have been tied to all sorts of health benefits, including promoting better-quality sleep. Not a fan of teas? Tart cherry juice has also shown some impressive sleep benefits.
  • Good fats: Heart-healthy fats — i.e. unsaturated fats — are linked to serotonin production and healthy sleep. You can find these good fats in fish like salmon, tuna, and trout, as well as nuts like peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews.


Foods that can negatively impact your sleep

Johns Hopkins Medicine says there are a few different types of food and drinks you might want to avoid if you’re focused on getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Caffeine: This one may feel obvious. Drinking coffee too close to your bedtime can make it pretty difficult to fall asleep. But Johns Hopkins points out that caffeine can be hiding in foods and drinks you might not expect including chocolate products, ice cream, breakfast cereals, and even coffee drinks that claim to be decaf. Some medications even contain caffeine.
  • Alcohol: Many people may believe that a nightcap can help them fall asleep faster, but the truth is that alcohol can be disruptive to your sleep. It can even increase your likelihood of sleepwalking, sleep talking, and memory issues.
  • Spicy foods: If you suffer from acid reflux, you may want to avoid spicy foods (or any other types of foods that trigger heartburn) close to bedtime as laying down will likely make the reflux worse. This can be especially important if you have sleep apnea, Johns Hopkins says.
  • High-fat and high-protein foods: Studies have shown that a high-fat diet may lead to disrupted sleep at night and increased sleepiness during the day. Foods with a lot of protein — like steak and chicken — may also be disruptive to sleep if consumed too close to bedtime because they take a long time to digest.

A light snack before bed can help you fall asleep, but in general, it is not recommended that you eat a large meal too close to bedtime. You need to give your body time to digest.

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