Sleep should play an important part in your daily life. It helps your brain reconsolidate the previous day’s memories, while also helping your body regenerate and get ready for the upcoming day. When you fail to get enough sleep, you may start to experience some health problems such as consistent fatigue, weight gain, a higher risk of heart disease, and more.
While having a snack before going to bed might seem like a great way to curb those cravings, it could actually have a negative effect on your sleep. We explore the effects of diet on sleep in this post to help you understand what to eat and what you should try to avoid.
Diet And Sleep: What’s The Connection?
What you put into your body has a significant impact on your overall health. Your physical and mental health is dependent on a diet that is rich in several nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids.
The right diet helps your heart effectively pump blood through your body, ensures your immune system can fight against disease and ensures everything else works effectively. When you fail to eat a healthy diet, however, you can experience several adverse effects – and one of these lies with your ability to sleep well at night.
While research is still relatively new in this area, scientists are starting to notice that diet actually plays an important role in how you sleep. Not only could your diet affect your ability actually to fall asleep, but it may also have an impact on how well you sleep.
Current Scientific Evidence Linking Diet And Sleep
In 2016, researchers at Columbia University in New York conducted a study to determine how food affects sleep. At this time, it was already known that there is a definite connection, but these researchers wanted to see which food might actually impact your ability to sleep.
The study was conducted on 26 participants. All participants were considered generally healthy and slept between seven and nine hours each night.
The study was divided into two phases and lasted for a total period of five days. A controlled diet was used during the initial four days of the study, but the participants were told to decide what to eat themselves on the fifth day.
Researchers reported changes in sleep on the fourth night after the controlled diet was implemented. Changes were also detected during the fifth night when the participants were told to choose their own foods to consume.
Findings suggested that a higher intake of fiber may help to provide an improvement in the restorative effect of sleep. There was a significant improvement in slow-wave sleep. This means the quality of sleep was improved. The duration in which patients remained in stage one sleep was reduced with a higher sleep intake, which also indicates a deeper sleep.
In addition to these findings, researchers reported a lighter sleep that also seems to be less restorative among those participants who consumed a diet that was high in food products that contain more saturated fats. Other carbohydrates, which included sugar, also led to an increase in nighttime arousals and increased the time spent in stage one sleep. This essentially means the participant experienced a lighter sleep.
What Foods Should You Avoid To Sleep Better?
When it comes to looking at how you could potentially improve your sleep pattern by adjusting your diet, it is definitely a good idea to start by considering foods you should avoid. This should be step one, as it will allow you to reduce the intake of specific foods that might cause you to remain in sleep stage one for a prolonged period of time – and this means you will start to experience deeper sleep.
As noted in the study, we have considered previously, and sleep is adversely affected when you eat too many carbohydrates, and when your diet is rich in saturated fats. Thus, these are the first foods that you really want to exclude from your diet – or at least limit, especially a few hours before you go to bed.
These are only some of the foods that are high in added sugars. When you eat or drink too much of these, especially just before you go to sleep, then your blood sugar levels are sure to spike. This may cause you to find that you are unable to experience deep sleep – which means your time in bed will not be as restorative as it should really be.
The same goes for foods that are high in saturated fats, as revealed by the study we considered. There are many foods that are loaded with saturated fats – and if you eat too much of these foods, then you may not sleep as well as you need to.
While some of these foods might usually be associated with health benefits – take a look at coconut oil; for example – having too much of them or eating these foods too close to your bedtime might have an adverse impact on your ability to have a restorative night of sleep.
What Should You Eat For Better Sleep
Now that we have looked at some foods that could have an adverse impact on your sleep let’s switch our focus to some options that are healthy for sleeping.
As noted in the study, we looked at, and higher fiber intake may help you experience a deeper and higher quality sleep in general. Fortunately, it is not too hard to include fiber-rich foods into your diet.
Some of the best fiber-rich foods that you should consider, including more in your daily meals, such as carrots or broccoli
There are also some types of breakfast cereals that are made from whole grains. While these are high in fiber, it is important always to take note of the carb content and any added sugars that might be included in these foods.
You need to find foods that contain the right balance – they should be high in fiber, but low in saturated fats and sugars. At the same time, your diet should still offer your body access to all the essential nutrients that it needs to stay functional.
While you may often hear that spending too much time on your smartphone or laptop before going to bed is bad for you, publications often fail to mention the major impact that diet may also play on sleep. A diet that is high in certain ingredients, such as sugar, seems to reduce the restorative effect that sleep has on the body. On the other hand, eating healthily could enhance your sleep and ensure you gain maximum benefits from your six-to-nine hours in bed each night.