Getting enough sleep every night is an important factor for our overall well-being. But did you know that what you eat during the day can have a direct effect on the quality of sleep you’re getting each night? It might be easy enough to avoid caffeine after dinner, but it’s also just as important to eat a healthy and nutrient-rich diet that can support your brain health and sleeping patterns.
Diet and Sleep
There is a definite connection between sleep and how we digest and metabolize our food. Our diet and choices when it comes to food, also affects and helps regulate our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm runs on a 24-hour cycle that our bodies follow every day. It helps keep our body's clock running properly and on time, keeping our bodily functions healthy and regular. This includes falling asleep at night, waking up, feeling hunger, and metabolizing the food that we eat.
This means that doing things like shifting our eating patterns or changing what we eat in major ways (like getting on a high-fat diet) can actually change the clock that our body runs on. This can knock us off of the circadian clock that regulates our sleep.
This is what connects what we eat to how we sleep, and it goes both ways, meaning our sleep health will affect our metabolic health as well.
Studies have shown that having a poor sleeping pattern is linked to overeating, worse quality of diet, and higher rates of obesity and metabolic diseases. So it’s important to understand how what you eat, as well as the times that you eat, will matter when it comes to your sleep habits and your long-term health. Making healthy choices when it comes to your diet will ultimately help you optimize your circadian rhythm.
Here are some things that you should keep in mind:
What Happens When You Eat Right Before Bed
If you eat a meal or have a snack right before your sleep, it can result in you tossing and turning while your digestive system tries to process the food you ate. We recommend that you avoid eating any heavy meals right before you go to bed, and if you plan on eating a big meal we recommend you eat it at least 2 hours before going to sleep.
This way, your body will have plenty of time to digest the meal. Plus, you will reduce your chances of getting heartburn which worsens when you lie flat. This is because there is no gravity keeping your stomach acid down.
Examples of Foods Bad for Sleep
- Foods that are acidic. Even healthier foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits or peppermint might trigger reflux.
- Alcohol. Alcohol might help you fall asleep quickly, but after the sleepiness goes away, it will interrupt your sleep and result in poor sleep quality.
- Caffeine. Caffeinated drinks can also be the culprit of poor sleep. We recommend that you avoid coffee, tea, soda and other caffeinated foods after 2 PM.
- Foods that are high in fat. This includes butter, fatty meats, cheese or fried foods.
- Any spicy meals or condiments. Try to avoid eating fiery dishes to reduce the risk of heartburn.
When to Stop Eating Before Bed
Try your best to avoid eating your dinner a couple of hours before you plan on going to bed. For instance, if you want to eat dinner at 6 PM, then let that be the last thing you eat before you go to sleep. Be sure to eat enough to be satisfied, but not overly stuffed. If you want to eat something sweet, eat a smaller portion after you finish eating your meal.
Going to Bed Hungry
You might be wondering if going to bed hungry also has an effect on your sleep. And, conversely, it can have a negative impact on your sleep. In general, you should eat enough to keep you satisfied until bedtime but if you are truly hungry then you can eat something light. If you want to sip on something, then try something that is calorie and caffeine-free. Like herbal tea or a low calorie beverage.
Eating a healthy diet can help you achieve good sleep, and vice versa. One of the best things you can do to help improve your sleep is to make sure that you are eating a nutritious diet and it also helps to maintain a healthy weight.
To learn more about how your DNA can uncover your ideal diet so you can optimize your sleep, get started by reading our blog post Can a DNA Test Really Tell You How to Eat? Let us help you navigate your health so you can get on the right path to leading a better life through nutrigenomics.