Sleep disorders may arise for many different reasons. However, sleep can be improved by tweaking a few habits and choices.

Nutrition and Sleep

You toss in bed for the 15th time that night. You don’t know how late it is, but it’s well past when you should have been asleep. Despite your best efforts, thoughts keep rattling around in your mind like loose marbles. It’s a racket that won’t let you sleep. Dread and anxiety stir, and you accept tomorrow’s zombie-like disposition. Sound familiar? You’re not the only one wide awake in the middle of the night. According to the American Sleep Association, 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. 30% of Americans struggle with insomnia, and since this whole COVID-19 situation – the numbers have only gotten worse.

Sleep disorders may arise for many different reasons. Mental health struggles such as anxiety, depression, and acute stress are known to cause sleep problems. However, sleep can be improved by tweaking a few habits and choices. These habits and choices make up your sleep hygiene.

Good sleep hygiene means creating an environment and daily routines that promote quality sleep. For example: avoiding caffeine late in the day, turning off all screens a couple hours before bed, and making sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. However, nutrition should also be considered a part of sleep hygiene. After all, nutrition affects everything in our bodies, including the processes involved in sleep. It plays as big of a role in helping you get proper sleep as winding down at the end of a long day.

How Nutrition Affects Sleep

Micronutrients

Research shows improper micronutrient levels in your body may affect sleep. One study found that lacking a few key ones, like calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E and K is associated with sleep problems. More research needs to be done on the strength of cause and effect. However, the data shows these nutrients affect the hormones which control your sleep.

Think of it this way. Every day, your body needs nutrients like vitamins and minerals to produce and regulate hormone levels. Without them those hormones, like sleep hormones, suffer. The result is poor sleep. That could mean trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or simply not getting quality sleep where you feel refreshed the next morning.

Macronutrients

Besides micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, macronutrients matter too. This is especially true at dinner time. Having an ongoing depletion of micronutrients may affect your sleep in the long run, but macronutrient effects can be quicker. This is why it’s a good idea to pay attention to the macros in your dinner!

Macros are your carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. If you’ve had a good old carb-loaded holiday dinner you’ve probably experienced that sleepy lull that makes you want to curl up and nap a while. Carbs induce drowsiness because they trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that aids in many body processes including sleep.

You might think “oh, a big bowl of pasta will help me sleep at night!”. As much as I love pasta, this may not be the case. Eating too many carbohydrates at night might make you sleepy, but it’ll result in fitful sleep as your insulin levels spike and then drop. Don’t lose hope though! After all, not all carbohydrates are the same. In fact, having a bit of whole grains before bed can help induce that sleepiness without causing your energy levels to go all out of whack. Whole grains provide less of a spike in energy than refined grains and they help keep your insulin a little steadier through the night.

Carbohydrates are also better at night than other macronutrients like protein and fats. I don’t mean that you should avoid these at night, but you’ll want to take into account how much you eat and how late at night you eat them. Fats and proteins are more difficult for the body to digest, so as you’re slipping into your cozy covers, your metabolism is working hard to digest that food. Just like you, your metabolism wants to settle down for the night, so forcing it to digest heavy fatty or protein-rich foods won’t help. High fat foods may also interfere with a brain chemical called orexin which helps regulate your body’s natural clock called the circadian rhythm. 

“So, What Should I Eat?!”

It’s important to consider that this advice applies to eating at night, like for dinner. Fats, carbs, and protein are all part of a well-balanced diet, so they shouldn’t be avoided! It’s just about balance.

For example, whole grains are rich in fiber which is also important in maintaining sleep health. Diets low in fiber, too much fat, and high levels of sugar show links to lighter, less restful sleep. So, you don’t want to avoid your whole grains! Instead of eating a feast of whole grain pasta at night, aim for a small bowl of brown rice or oatmeal for example. Have the majority of your whole grains during the day instead of at night.

You also don’t want to avoid fats. Fatty fish can actually help sleep as it provides important nutrients like Vitamin D and omega-3s. These nutrients are in charge of regulating serotonin – that neurotransmitter that aids in sleep. Again, instead of chowing down a big old piece of salmon at night, try having it a couple times a week for lunch instead!

Finally, you certainly want to get enough protein as protein is the building blocks for so many important body processes from cellular generation to muscle recovery. Again, instead of indulging in a protein heavy dinner, try scattering protein during the day. Oatmeal is a great source of whole grains and fiber for your mornings, eggs make a quick breakfast or lunch side, and post morning workout protein shakes can help round out those protein numbers. 

So, you see – timing is important. Some people may not have to worry about food timing affecting their sleep, but if you wish to find ways to help improve your sleep, it’s not a bad thing to consider what you eat at night, how much, and how late.

How SLEEP Affects Nutrition

You read that right. Now that you know how nutrition affects sleep, it’s good to know how the opposite is true… and how it can create a vicious cycle.

Research shows that poor sleep can actually cause you to fall into poor nutrition habits… which in turn do nothing to help you sleep better.

One way your long sleepless nights affect your nutrition are by affecting your hormones. In the same way foods can affect the hormones that help you sleep, not getting enough sleep can affect the hormones in charge of appetite. People who don’t get enough sleep have been known to eat more overall, have poor diet choices, and have increased risk of obesity and metabolic disease.

The hormones ghrelin and leptin are affected by sleep deprivation. Their job is to tell your body when you’re hungry so that you consume more calories. Not getting enough sleep can trigger a higher release of these hormones, so you feel hungrier and therefore eat more. That wouldn’t be so bad if people reached for fruits and veggies. However, studies show that the sleep deprived tend to make poor nutrition choices as well. The lack of focus, hampered decision-making, and moodiness accompanied by sleeplessness can result in reaching for higher calorie, unhealthy, and sleep unhelpful foods.

For example, if you wake up in the morning feeling like a steamroller passed over you at night, you’ll likely double up on the caffeine intake just to get through the day. That extra caffeine can make it more difficult to sleep the next day. Maybe not sleeping leaves you irritable, so you reach for some comforting ice cream, chocolate, or mac and cheese. Now we have high sugar, fats, and carbs in the mix that will also affect sleep. Maybe you just wake up too darn tired to make anything for breakfast other than pouring out some sugary cereal. The things that seem appealing after a bad night of sleep may be the same things setting you up for another sleepless night.

To summarize: sleep deprivation can affect the hormones in charge of appetite, causing you to eat more. Sleep deprivation also messes with your cognition, which may lead to making poor nutrition choices. The end result… another bad night of sleep. The cycle is not unbreakable though! Some lifestyle choices and nutrition tips can help you get that much deserved rest.

Better Sleep “Nope” List

There’s plenty of things you can avoid setting yourself up for better sleep. Some of these have to do with nutrition, but not all of them.

1.)   Watch Your Dinner Time: Eating late at night means your metabolism is working overtime to digest the food in your tummy. This takes energy, and energy is the opposite of restful sleep.

2.)   What Your Dinner Macros: As mentioned, you don’t want to avoid carbs, fats, or proteins. Just be mindful of them come dinner time. Whole grain carbs are preferable to high protein and high fat because they’re easier to digest. Just make sure you don’t eat too many carbs that result in spiked energy levels through the night. Balance your dinner meal with whole grains, some fats and protein, and maybe a cup of chamomile tea!

3.)   What Your Dinner Size: Eating too much late at night makes your metabolism work hard to digest food instead of winding down for the night. A good rule of thumb is to have a breakfast of champions but a frugal dinner.

4.)   Upgrade Your Sleep Hygiene: this means setting up your environment and daily routine for good sleep. It can take several forms. For example,

a.)   Make sure you stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon, if you drink it all.

b.)   Limit your consumption of sugar during the day, especially near bedtime.

c.)   Turn off your screens an hour or two before bed.

d.)   Make sure your sleeping environment is dark, cool, and quiet.

e.)   Create a relaxing bedtime routine that lets your mind know it’s time for rest. Maybe do some yoga, mediate, take a hot bath, journal, or read something soothing.

f.)  Also, make sure you have a set time to go to sleep and wake up. This helps keep your circadian rhythm strong. The trick is to find what works for you and stick to it!

5.)   No Alcoholic Night-Caps! Sure, alcohol makes you sleepy and might knock you out cold fast. However, alcohol pushes you into a deep sleep for the first few hours of the night. Then your body compensates by spending the rest of the time in light sleep. The result is waking up like you took a 5-minute nap.

6.)   Spice Doesn’t Play Nice: Avoid eating spicy foods at night. They can cause indigestion, heartburn, or even raise your core temperature which makes it harder for your body to fall and stay asleep.

7.)   Snack Responsibly: Eating too much might mess with your sleep but going to bed hungry won’t help either. If you’re feeling particularly hungry at night, go for a small snack. Just make sure it’s a snack that won’t get in the way of restful sleep.

8.)   Drink Water: It seems like this comes up every blog post, but water deserves the hype. Not drinking enough water during the day can leave you dehydrated at night. The result is dry mouth and nasal passages that can lead to snoring and waking up with a scratchy throat. Make sure to get enough water during the day, not all at once before bedtime!

Better Sleep “Yes” List

It’s not all about avoiding certain things. Including some kinds of foods into your diet can help prep you for optimal sleep! Here are just a few:

–   Kiwi: They’re rich in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C and E and potassium and folate. More research needs to be done on exactly how and how much kiwis help sleep, but they may offer at least help in plugging up vitamin deficiencies which are known to disrupt sleep.

–   Tart Cherries and Tart Cherry Juice: Tart cherries have high concentrations of melatonin which can help you get more quality sleep. Melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm. Just make sure your juice has no added sugar!

–   Fatty Fish: This addition to your diet increases your Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids which help in the body’s regulation of serotonin. Too much fat in your diet, especially at night, can be problematic though. Try having some salmon a few times a week for lunch!

–   Nuts: They contain melatonin, magnesium, and zinc which help regulate body processes. Studies show that a combination of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc have helped adults with insomnia get better sleep.

–   Rice: The results are mixed, but whole grain carbohydrates may help in sleep by triggering the release of serotonin and being easier to digest than fats and proteins. Emphasis on whole grains though! Refined grains will cause more severe insulin spikes and unsteady energy levels that can interfere with restful sleep.

–   Turkey: It contains an amino acid called tryptophan which increases the production of melatonin. However, you’ll want to eat moderate amounts of turkey or protein at night since protein can be taxing and harder to digest.

–   Chamomile tea: It has apigenin in it which is an antioxidant that binds certain receptors in your brain and may help make you sleep and reduce insomnia.

–   Oatmeal: Oatmeal is high in whole grain carbs, fiber, and helps some people feel drowsy at night. It’s also a known source of melatonin!

–   Bananas: They have magnesium which helps improve your quality of sleep by aiding in relaxation.

All of these little changes add up over time and can help you get the quality sleep you deserve! As always, nutrition plays a critical role in every part of our lives, including getting enough rest. Though these pieces of advice are a great place to start, optimizing your entire nutrition will not only help your sleep – but it will completely change your life! That’s where we want to help you.

How FK Can Help You

As we’ve learned – food is fuel, but it’s also key in helping get enough rest. Fran’s Kitchen Meal Plans are designed to offer powerful nutrition to delicious meals. You won’t have to worry about getting enough nutrients with our meal plans. We’ll make sure you experience optimal nourishment through delicious meals!

There are two ways you can become part of the FK meal plan family. The first option is through our Delivery Meal Plans. The Delivery Meal Plans are offered to customers within the Phoenix, AZ area. These meal plans are prepared and delivered to clients based on an agreed-upon schedule. We offer a variety of delivery meal plans such as:

–       Autoimmune Protocol: for those with autoimmune disorders and body inflammation.

–       Keto: for those interested in the keto lifestyle.

–       Detox: for gut healing, metabolism boosting, and toxin removing.

–       Paleo: a whole-food nutrient rich plan.

If you don’t live around, no need to worry! We also have the FK Online Meal Plans! Though these plans are not prepared and delivered, we still make sure you get optimized nutrition. The meal plans are sent via email, with in depth instructions on how to prep, cook, and store your meals! Plus, we include an ingredient list and shopping list, so you know exactly what you’ll need every week! You can start eating healthy and enjoying powerful nutrition right from the comfort of your kitchen. For our Online Meal Plans we offer:

–             Keto

–             Vegan

–             And Metabolic

For more information regarding the FK meal plans, head on over to our website {LINK}. Once there, you can also search for more nutritional information in our blogs! We’re here to serve your nutrition needs and help you live the life you deserve: one of optimal wellness.

Enjoyed this blog post? Follow us on social media and let us know what you liked and what you’d like to see in the future. We love hearing from you!

Cheers,

Fran

NOTE: Fran’s Kitchen offers two different meal plan services. Our Delivery Meal Plans are delivered to customers on an agreed upon schedule. Our ONLINE MEAL PLANS are NOT delivered. These online meal plans are sent to customers via email to be cooked, followed, and enjoyed from the comfort of their own kitchens! Please be mindful of these differences when registering for Fran’s Kitchen services. Thank you!

Sources

Can COVID Cause Insomnia? – COVID-19, Health Topics, Neuroscience, Sleep Disorders

Diet and Sleep Physiology: Public Health and Clinical Implications

Does the Proximity of Meals to Bedtime Influence the Sleep of Young Adults? A Cross-Sectional  

Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Weight Gain, Caloric Intake, and Meal Timing in Healthy Adults 

How What You Eat Affects Your Sleep 

Insomnia Facts and Statistics  

John Hopkins Medicine | Better Sleep: 3 Simple Diet Tweaks 

Micronutrient Inadequacy in Short Sleep: Analysis of the NHANES 2005-2016

Nutrition and Sleep: Diet’s Effect on Sleep  

The 9 Best Foods and Drinks to Have Before Bed 

The Best Foods to Help You Sleep 

The Connection Between Diet, Exercise, and Sleep 

Survey of University Students 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.