What is the relationship between nutrition and sleep?

It’s no secret that both nutrition and sleep play a crucial role in our health, but the complex and important relationships between them are not noticed.

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Understanding the connections between sleep and nutrition will prompt you to eat smarter, sleep better, and live a healthier life.

What is Nutrition?

Nutrition is made up of food that provides the body with energy and necessary matter to function properly. Human nutrition consists of macro and micronutrients. 

Macronutrients: These include carbohydrates, protein, amino acids, fats, fiber, and water.

Vitamins: They play important roles in our body and there are 13 essential vitamins.

Minerals:  Minerals play important roles in overall health and well-being which includes iron, sodium, calcium, potassium, zinc, and copper. 

Proper nutrition requires a healthy balance of macro and micronutrients. Most nutrition comes from food, but dietary supplements also provide nutrition. 

Nutrition and Sleep

Nutrition serves as a backbone of health providing the necessary energy and other inputs that help the body function optimally.

Many people are unaware that their diet can profoundly impact sleep and aid weight loss.

What is the Best Diet for Sleep?

As a basic rule, a balanced diet made up largely of a variety of vegetables and fruits is able to provide the recommended daily intake of vitamins and nutrients, contributing to better sleep while promoting a healthy weight.

Since both sleep and nutrition are extremely complex so it is challenging to conduct research that could demonstrate diet for good sleep. Instead, it’s important that a person gets the required nutrition without over-consuming unhealthy food.

Nutrition to look good and sleep great.
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Growing evidence indicates that sufficient nutrient consumption is important for sleep. Studies found that a lack of key minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K is the reason for sleep problems.

High-carbohydrate meals with high glycemic indexes often can make you feel tired. It is logical that frequently consuming energy drinks and sugary beverages are bad for sleep quality.

Plant-based diets while incorporating lean meats and high-fiber foods are good for quality sleep.

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Diet with reduced salt and saturated fats along with a focus on whole foods with high levels of fiber, potassium, and magnesium designed to reduce blood pressure, and enhance sleep quality.

Sleep Affects Eating Habits

Sleep is essential for the body to function properly. It allows the brain and body to rest and recover, and an increasing amount of evidence points to its role in maintaining proper nutrition and healthy body weight.

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The effect of sleep on weight and body composition may be tied to how it affects appetite and nutrition.

Multiple studies have found that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to overeat without an equivalent increase in energy expenditure.

Making this worse is that sleep deprivation also appears to provoke high-calorie food.

Certain hormones are considered to be driving factors behind these poor nutritional choices associated with sleep deprivation. The normal production of leptin and Ghrelin, hormones that help control appetite and hunger, is thrown off even after short periods of inadequate sleep.

Other chemicals in the brain that help guide food choices may also be impacted by a lack of sleep. In addition, sleep is known to affect concentration, decision-making, and mood, all of which can play into the types of foods we incorporate into our daily diet.

How to Improve Sleep and Nutrition

Most people can get good sleep by improving their bedroom environment. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is very important in getting good sleep.

Research has found that a late sleep schedule is correlated with a high risk of cardiovascular diseases. 
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Eating too late at night is a really bad habit if you want sound sleep research has shown that people sleeping after 10 PM are less likely to get all the benefits of good sleep. 

Your eating habits can be crucial for good sleep. You should learn how your food choices and your meal timing can make a big difference in your sleeping habits.

What Food  to Avoid Before Bed

Fatty or high-protein foods: Because digestion slows when you sleep, going to bed soon after eating foods containing high amounts of protein and fat can lead to sleep disruption.  Eating low-calorie food at dinner is highly advisable. 

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Food to avoid before bed

Spicy foods: Spicy foods can cause difficulty in sleep. Spicy foods can sometimes raise your body temperature, since the body’s metabolic rate should be lower while sleeping, it disrupts regular sleep patterns.

Caffeine: Drinking coffee late in the day has been known to disrupt sleep for many people. Caffeine can also be found in foods such as chocolate.

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Alcohol is bad for sleep

Alcohol: Winding down with a glass of wine or a beer at dinner can be a pleasurable experience, but not so much when you’re getting ready to sleep. Once the effects of alcohol wear off, you’ll likely find yourself waking suddenly and struggling to go back to restful sleep. Alcohol can also worsen OSA symptoms. 

What to Choose Instead

If you need a snack before bedtime, consider complex carbohydrates such as Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, and beans, which can digest easily. 

Consuming a high-fiber diet with fresh fruits, and vegetables are ideal. 

Eating foods high in B vitamins; helps regulate melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone in your body that plays an important role in sleep.

Melatonin is the natural hormone your body secretes that helps to regulate your wake-sleep cycle. Since melatonin production declines with age that’s one of the reasons why older people sleep less.

Foods rich in B vitamins include whole grains, dark leafy vegetables,  fish, poultry, meat, legumes, and eggs.

Omega-3 fatty acids and sleep

Omega-3-rich food includes fatty fish, nuts, and seeds,  leafy green vegetables, promotes sleep quality, and supports healthy circadian rhythms.

The research on the omega-3s impact on sleep in children found that omega-3 fatty acids promote better sleep. With the excellent benefits omega-3s have on the brain, heart, and other vital organs it's very good for sleep.

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is naturally produced in sunlight.  More than half of the world’s population suffers from vitamin D deficiency. That’s a big problem because our body uses vitamin D for maintaining bone health to support immunity. Low levels of vitamin D are directly related to sleep problems.

The research analyzed the sleep patterns and Vitamin D levels of older adult men and found that Vitamin D deficiency was associated with lower sleep quality.

Fiber 

Several studies have found that higher fiber intake leads to better deep sleep as published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Since fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. 

 Ltheanine

L-theanine is great for sleep because it calms brain cells. L theanine increases the production of the calming neurotransmitter GABA. GABA is responsible for decreasing overactive neurons. So L-theanine helps you fall asleep and sleep deeper.

L-theanine is found in walnuts, spinach, green, black, and white teas, and can also be taken in supplement form. 

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is one of the amino acids present in foods that contain protein. Tryptophan is converted into a molecule called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), which is used to make serotonin and melatonin in our body. Melatonin is an important hormone regulating sleep.

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Foods high in Tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. 

Magnesium

A study eating food rich in magnesium in elderly participants improved the symptoms of insomnia and sleep quality.

Dark leafy greens, seeds, beans, fish, whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate, yogurt, avocados, and bananas are good sources of Magnesium.

Journal of Research of Medical Science

Some super Foods to eat for better sleep

Almonds. Almonds contain high doses of melatonin also containing magnesium and calcium, two minerals that may help promote muscle relaxation and sleep.

Milk. Milk is a common home remedy for sleeplessness. Milk contains four sleep-promoting compounds: tryptophan, calcium, vitamin D, and melatonin.

Chamomile tea. Researchers believe that a flavonoid compound known as apigenin is responsible for chamomile’s sleep-boosting effect. Apigenin activates GABA A receptors, which stimulate sleep.

Walnuts. Walnut contains a few melatonin, serotonin, and magnesium that promote and regulate sleep.

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Sleep Nutrition

Fatty fish. Fatty fish help improves sleep since they contain vitamin D and fatty acids, two nutrients that help regulate serotonin.  Fatty fish are typically also high in a few other sleep-promoting nutrients like potassium, magnesium, vitamin B-12, and calcium.

Banana. Bananas are rich in sleep-promoting nutrients like tryptophan, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6, they all are linked to improved sleep. Bananas also improve sleep by easing digestion and promoting feelings of fullness.

Water. You need to drink enough water to stay hydrated all night. You can’t get a good night’s sleep if you wake up in the night because of thirst or the need to go to the bathroom. 

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Conclusion

Nutrition is an important part of good sleep and if you are not eating a balanced diet providing all vitamins, minerals, and protein it is going to seriously affect the quality and quantity of sleep. So nutrition and sleep have a deep relationship and nutrient-rich food plays an important role to boost sleep. 

By John Gurung

A former software developer who is now a blogging enthusiast. A true digital nomad.

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