We all know the connection between what we eat and our weight and energy levels – and tend to pay extra attention to that during resolution-seeking January. But have you ever stopped to think about how what you eat affects your sleep, and how your sleep quality affects your food choices?
Whether or not we get a high-quality night-time slumber is dependent on a lot more than what time we climb in and out of bed at. From activity level to sun exposure and how much time we spend staring at our screens, the factors seem nearly endless. But the combination of food and drinks we use to fuel our bodies deserves a spot at the top of our sleep success factors list.
The connection between food and sleep is complex and are two key health components that are tied in surprising ways.
Now it’s common sense not to down a double latte post-dinner, and that a fast-food special might derail your slumber. But the justifications for eating well are a tad less straightforward. According to experts, eating a healthy balanced diet allows the body to absorb the proper nutrients to provide the brain with the optimal environment to produce the neurotransmitters that it needs for sleep. Studies show that eating less fibre, more saturated fat and sugar throughout the day resulted in lighter, less restorative sleep with more night wakings – definitely not good news!
Diet choices also impact our circadian rhythms which keep our body clock and bodily functions – including falling asleep and waking up – running on time. That’s why shifting when or what we eat drastically can throw our internal clocks totally off track.
Sleep and diet are truly a double-edged sword as poor sleep patterns have been linked to eating more, worse diet quality and higher rates of obesity and metabolic disease. Studies now show that people who are sleep deprived tend to eat more fat-rich foods, simple carbohydrates, and fewer vegetables, possibly because sleep loss alters chemical signals connected to metabolism and hunger. In fact, some researchers believe sleep deprivation to be a factor in the rising rates of obesity.
So how should you eat to keep your sleep and health on track?
Tips for Tots
- Steer Clear of Sugar: Avoid pop, chocolate, and high sugar foods – especially before bedtime, and maybe just in general! This keeps blood sugar levels consistent.
- Intro New Foods Early: If you have a wee one who is being introduced to new foods, either for the first time or as part of food intolerance testing, make sure to introduce it early in the day in case there are any digestives issues. Then night-time sleep won’t be impacted!
- Evening Snack: Offer whole grain crackers and cheese, oatmeal with milk or some yogurt with banana to prepare their body for rest.
For more scoop on bedtime snacks, check out 3 Tips for Smarter Bedtime Snacks.
Tips for Parents
- Curb Caffeine: Caffeine can stay in the bloodstream for up to six hours after you down it – so cut it off early.
- Bye-bye Booze: Alcohol knocks you out sure, but then your body spends more time early in the night in the deep sleep stage than it would otherwise, and your sleep cycle rebounds and your brain keeps you in the lighter sleep stages for the rest of the night – making you feel less rested than if you had curbed the cocktails earlier in the night.
- Eat Clean: Avoid fatty, high sugar and spicy food before bedtime. Stay hydrated throughout the day!
- Try Tryptophan: According to the National Sleep Foundation, foods containing the amino acid tryptophan—a building block of the sleep-related chemical serotonin—could potentially make you drowsy. Turkey, eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts are great sources. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, so if you’re eating a light snack before bed, try something like a few whole wheat crackers with a small amount of peanut butter, or cereal with milk.
Try our tips for sleep success to make 2018 your most well-rested year yet!