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Food for thought – How your diet impacts your sleep quality

Posted on September 26th, 2023

Sleep is hugely important for your health and well-being. A good night’s sleep can leave you feeling refreshed, alert, and ready to take on the day. Conversely, a poor night’s sleep can lead to problems, including fatigue, mood swings, and decreased productivity. 

While many factors can influence your sleep quality, one often overlooked aspect is nutrition. Nutrition and sleep are closely intertwined, and your diet can significantly impact how you sleep. What you eat and when you eat can influence factors affecting your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and achieve restorative sleep. 

Here’s how what you eat affects your sleep 

To understand how nutrition affects your sleep, you should know that your body operates on a circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural internal clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. 

Your sleep-wake cycle is influenced by various factors, including exposure to light, physical activity, and, you guessed it, what you eat.

The role of nutrients

Certain nutrients, such as magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D, are known to promote better sleep. These nutrients are involved in the production of sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin. To enhance your intake of these nutrients, try incorporating foods like leafy greens, nuts, and fatty fish into your diet.

The effects of caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and many soft drinks. While it can provide a much-needed energy boost during the day, consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep patterns. To ensure a restful night’s sleep, limit your caffeine intake in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Alcohol’s impact

Drinking alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy and fall asleep, but it can negatively affect your sleep quality. Alcohol disrupts your normal sleep cycle, leading to fragmented and less restorative sleep. You should moderate alcohol consumption, especially in the evening, to get better sleep. 

The timing of your meals and fluid intake

The timing of your meals can also influence how you sleep. Consuming large, heavy meals close to bedtime can lead to discomfort and indigestion, making it harder to fall asleep. Aim to have your last meal of the day at least two to three hours before bedtime to allow for proper digestion.

Excessive fluid intake close to bedtime can also lead to sleep disturbances. Staying hydrated is important for your health, but late-night drinking can lead to nighttime awakenings to use the bathroom. To strike a balance, drink more earlier in the day and reduce your fluid intake in the evening to ensure uninterrupted sleep.

Foods that promote better sleep 

Certain foods and nutrients can promote better sleep by encouraging the production of sleep-inducing hormones like serotonin and melatonin. 

Here’s a list of sleep-friendly foods that you can eat to improve your sleep: 

Bananas: Bananas are a good source of magnesium and potassium, both of which can help your muscles relax and promote healthy sleep.

Cherries: Cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Tart cherries, in particular, may be especially effective.

Almonds: Almonds are rich in magnesium, which can help relax your muscles and improve your sleep quality. They also provide protein, which can help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to higher sleep quality. They also provide vitamin D, which may play a role in sleep regulation.

Herbal teas: Chamomile, valerian root, and lavender teas have calming properties that can help relax your body and promote healthy sleep.

Kiwi: Kiwi is rich in vitamins C and E, serotonin precursors, and antioxidants, all of which may improve sleep quality.

Foods that can hurt your sleep 

Anything with caffeine: Coffee, tea, energy drinks, and many soft drinks contain caffeine, which is a stimulant that can make you have a harder time falling and staying asleep. 

Spicy foods: Spicy foods can cause indigestion and heartburn, which can make it difficult to sleep comfortably.

Acidic foods: Acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits are more types of foods that can cause heartburn and acid reflux, leading to disrupted sleep.

Fatty, fried, and processed foods: You can also add high-fat and fried foods to the list of foods that can result in indigestion and acid reflux. Additionally, processed foods often contain high levels of unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium, which can negatively affect your sleep quality.

High-sugar foods and sweets: Consuming sugary foods and sweets close to bedtime can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to awakenings during the night.

Follow these nutrition tips to get a better night’s sleep 

Balance your diet: Aim to have a well-rounded diet that includes foods from all food groups. This will help you get the necessary nutrients for optimal sleep.

Watch your portions: Overeating can lead to discomfort. So practice portion control, especially in the evening.

Mindful eating: Pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel. Certain foods may trigger discomfort or heartburn, which can disrupt your sleep.

Stay consistent: Try to eat meals at roughly the same times each day to help regulate your body’s internal clock.

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, the connection between nutrition and sleep can easily be overlooked. However, making conscious choices about what you eat and when you eat can significantly impact your sleep quality. Follow these tips to achieve a healthier diet and more restful sleep. The path to better sleep starts on your plate.

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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